‘Made sure we stayed safe:' Emergency crews honored for response to Matteson train derailment

A musical festival was turned into a dedication ceremony for the emergency crews who responded to Thursday's train derailment in Matteson

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Hundreds packed the commons outside Matteson’s Village Hall on Friday night with chairs, picnic gear and smiles to honor the responders who rushed to the scene of a huge train derailment and arrived within three minutes.

"These people right here made sure we stayed safe. They were there within minutes," said Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin. "Let's give them a hand."

Residents gathered for what was an annual music fest turned first responder dedication.

NBC Chicago on Friday obtained video showing the moment the freight train derailed on Thursday, sending more than 20 cars off the tracks and prompting evacuations of nearby homes. Everyone who was directed to evacuate has since returned home.

NBC Chicago obtained video showing the moment a freight train derailed on Thursday in south suburban Matteson, sending more than 20 cars off the tracks and prompting evacuations of nearby homes. NBC Chicago's Courtney Sisk reports.

Meanwhile, new details emerged about clean-up efforts.

"They will see some smoke in the area, because they have to do flaring to burn this off," Chalmers-Currin said.

With the Environmental Protection Agency on scene, Canadian National is burning the propane vapors off. The odorless, smokeless process is expected to take 48 hours.

"They’re burning off remaining vapors on these rail cars...of liquid propane, which are not hazardous, like your grill at home," said fire chief Michael Bacon. "I was told by Canadian National and members from hazmat that this could not have gone any smoother."

I sit through these classes and think it’s never gonna happen. And it did. So, we’re prepared.

Michael Jones, Matteson police chief

Michael Jones, Matteson's police chief, said nowadays, first responders are prepared in ways they weren't a decade ago.

"We now have drones. We can send them in and make sure there are no casualties and read the placard so we know exactly what we’re dealing with...and get info to fire so they know what they're dealing with," Jones said. "Those are game changers over last 10 years."

No injuries were reported, and no homes were damaged when the cars derailed.

"I sit through these classes and think it’s never gonna happen. And it did," Jones said. "So we’re prepared."

Community members thanked first responders for what they do on a daily basis, but especially their actions during the derailment.

"We are made up of a diverse people. Just to see everyone come out and celebrate is really nice, especially of what happened yesterday," said Chicago resident Marlene Simmons. "We need to be cognizant of what we need to be grateful for."

The festival featured a performance by Grammy winner Eric Benét, followed by fireworks to cap off the night.

"The evacuation is over, and we can get back to being one in community and have fun today," said resident Misty Carter.

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