MOSIER, Ore. -- The first fire commander on scene of Friday's oil train derailment and fire said had it been a typical day in the Gorge, the outcome would have been horrific.
Mosier District Fire Chief Jim Appleton said the response to Friday's crash was successful, considering the town itself didn't have enough water to put out the flames from the cars that ignited and had to call in tankers from as far away as Portland to get water from the Columbia River.
The chief says within two hours of the derailment on Friday, about a hundred firefighters from five surrounding counties were on scene.
Background: Oil train derails in the Gorge
"The overall response went very, very smoothly. It was almost like a table-top exercise where everything worked out," he said.
But the chief was quick to add the only reason things went that smoothly was because the Friday the oil train derailed, there just happened to be almost no wind.
"The true story here is the horror of what could have happened," he said. "From March to October it's 30 miles per hour plus through here."
That means, on a typical day, the flames would have blown right through town. The Fire Chief admitted his crews would not have been equipped to handle that scenario.
With not enough water to fight a wind driven fire, Appleton said it would have been almost unstoppable.
"I have a high degree of confidence that the school building would have been at a minimum effected if not completely incinerated," he said.
He said at the time of the derailment, the school was full of children.