FAIRFIELD — Thirteen-year-old Jade Kutzer of Benton said Saturday that her school – Lawrence Junior High School – and two other schools lie within the “evacuation zone” of railroad tracks that run through Fairfield.

If there were a train accident such as the catastrophic derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, two years ago, she and her friends and classmates would have to leave – if they were lucky.

The area also would be characterized as a part of a “blast zone” around the railroad tracks that safety officials recommend be evacuated if a train carrying crude oil derails and catches fire.

“Our school may not be safe,” Kutzer told a group of environmental activists Saturday afternoon in Fairfield’s Veteran’s Memorial Park. “This makes me scared for my life and others.”

She said railroad companies should be using train cars that are equipped to handle crude oil and said that worries her.

The event, organized by environmental and social justice groups 350 Waldo County, SEEDS of Justice and ForestEthics, is part of a Stop Oil Train Week of Action that more than 100 groups across North America are taking part in. Bob Shaw of Belfast, a member of 350 Waldo County, was the facilitator for the event Saturday in Fairfield.

A RESULT OF ‘NEGLIGENCE’

One of the other speakers Saturday, Heidi Brugger of Freedom, said a distinction should be made between a tragic event being considered an accident and one that involved the negligence of the people in charge.

“There were a series of events that authorities have said could never all occur again. It was a perfect storm,” Brugger said of the Lac-Megantic crash. “I think it’s negligence.”

Brugger said she and others, including Jade Kutzer’s mother, Sass Linneken, who participated in a railroad tracks blockage in Fairfield 10 days before the Lac-Megantic crash, feared crude oil trains would jump the track and spill their toxic load. She said they never imagined such an event as was seen in Quebec. Six of the protesters were arrested at the event, but the district attorney later declined to press charges.

“We were afraid of a spill. We saw a danger of this oil leaking into our water supply,” Brugger said. “We didn’t understand how explosive it was.”

She said demonstrations such as Saturday’s are taking place all over the country to try to stop the trains that put people and property at risk because of profit.

Saturday’s demonstration, featuring about 35 people and dozens of placards and signs decrying crude oil “bomb trains,” was held in memory of those killed and to highlight the July 6, 2013, disaster in Quebec. In that accident, a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil rolled downhill and exploded in the middle of the small town near the Maine border, killing 47 people and destroying more than 30 buildings.

25 MILLION LIVE IN EVACUATION ZONES

The groups organizing the observance are using the second-year anniversary of the explosion to highlight their concerns about transporting volatile crude oil from the Bakken formation deposits in the western U.S. and Canada by train. Another speaker, Read Brugger of Freedom, said 25 million people live within the evacuation zone in the United States and it is time now to act to stop the world’s dependence on oil and the wars that are fought in the pursuit of the riches oil can produce.

“Ban the bomb trains,” Brugger said. “We remember 47 dead in Lac-Megantic. We remember a lake on fire and a river flowing black. We remember a town that has had its heart cut out.”

The observance ended with a song written and sung by Ruth Hill of Jay and the reading of all 47 names and ages of the people who died in the Lac-Megantic firestorm.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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