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The group Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology gathered in Salem on Thursday to discuss concerns they have with the Jordan Cove LNG pipeline with the Oregon Legislature.

FUSEE presented legislators with maps showing that the proposed pipeline route would pass through a 100-mile span of forested wildlands known to have very high wildfire risk. According to the group an accidental leak or rupture of the pipeline could trigger an explosive ignition of a gas-fueled wildfire that, added to the higher fuel hazards from flammable brush growing in the pipeline’s clearcut corridor, could spread fire rapidly through the forest and toward nearby rural communities.

The group also expressed concern of forest fires potentially triggering an explosion along the pipeline route, which would put wildland firefighters in more danger.

"Westerners are wising up to the role that electric powerlines play in igniting wildfires, but fracked gas pipelines don't just shoot sparks--they explode in fireballs," Timothy Ingalsbee, executive director of FUSEE said. "Firefighters will be forced to fight pipeline fires that threaten forests and local communities, and fight forest fires that threaten the pipeline. Either way, the pipeline greatly adds to the complexity and dangers of their mission."

According to FUSEE, the clearcut corridor for the pipeline will fragment closed-canopy forests and replace the trees with flammable grasses, shrubs, and invasive weeds, turning the pipeline’s linear clearcut into a quick-burning fuse if a fire from any source encounters the pipeline pathway. 

"Everyone knows you shouldn't add gas to a forest fire, but even if there is never a leak or rupture of the pipeline, the intended purpose of the pipeline is to facilitate more fossil fuel burning. This is driving up global warming and increasing wildfire activity worldwide, raising risks to firefighters and communities living in fire-prone areas," Ingalsbee said. "The Oregon legislature needs to stand up for wildland firefighters and rural communities to firmly and finally say NO to the Jordan Cove fracked gas pipeline project."

Locally, Coos Bay fire Chief Mark Anderson said from what his department has seen the plans for Jordan Cove LNG’s facilities are very well regulated.

“Safety is a big deal, and we don’t want their business if it can’t be safe. But I believe as a public safety professional that they can operate a facility provided the proper systems are in place, which is why they’re being so heavily regulated,” Anderson said.

Anderson mentioned that his department has already been trained to fight LNG related emergencies through its Regional Hazardous Materials Team, and that if the project did go through even more training would come along with it.  

“We are trained for LNG emergencies… If the project goes through there are ongoing trainings we would be involved in, and Jordan cove would be a partner in that they would certainly support."

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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