TSB investigating whether train sparked Lytton wildfire

LYTTON (NEWS 1130) – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is sending a team of investigators to Lytton, to find out whether a train is to blame for the devastating wildfire that all but completely destroyed the village last week.

At this time, the fire is believed to be human-caused, but exactly how has yet to be determined. A human-caused fire is any fire that was not caused by lightning.

Speculation has swirled that a train sparked a brushfire. Conditions at the time were extremely dry and quite windy. In the days leading up to the fire, Lytton broke the record for the highest-ever recorded temperature in Canada. The BC Wildfire Service and the RCMP have been investigating for over a week.

RELATED: Deadly Lytton wildfire suspected to be human-caused

Transportation Safety Board Chair Kathy Fox explains the delay, saying the board didn’t receive an “occurrence report” until Thursday.

“We have to have a report of an occurrence and normally those reports come from the operator or from the crew or from other witnesses. In this case, we did not receive an occurrence report from the railways, and we proactively reached out to them to ask if there have been an occurrence and we were told no,” she says.

“Until we had information, we didn’t have any jurisdiction to go in there. Now we’ve got more information which has come to us as a result of the on-site activities of other agencies. That’s given us enough to at least go out and take a look and see if there is a connection or if it’s just coincidental.”

It is mandatory to report a fire sparked by a train to the TSB, according to Fox.

“A fire created or caused by rolling railway stock is a reportable occurrence under our regulations, but it may not always be apparent to the crew or to the company it could be a spark that flies off a train or something else that that causes a brush fire, and they may not even be aware if it happened,” she says.

“It may not always be apparent to the crew or to the company. It could be a spark that flies off a train or something else that that causes a brush fire.”

The TSB receives between 30 and 100 reports of train-caused fires each year. The number depends on a number of variables, including weather conditions.

People from Lytton were forced to evacuate their village, with many only receiving a few minutes’ notice. They have all have been out of their homes since June 30.

On Friday, hundreds of evacuees are seeing the devastation for the first time, visiting what’s left of the community by bus.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra ordered most trains in the area to halt, as residents returned to the wildfire-scorched community to see the damage.

Alghabra said the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways were ordered to cease movement for 48 hours, except for emergency fire response, maintenance, and repair work, on stretches of track spanning parts of the B.C. Interior.

He said the aim was safe rail operations and public safety.

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The raging blazes have damaged rail tracks and held up shipments across the B.C. Interior, prompting a backlog of deliveries.

Meanwhile, The Transportation Safety Board has also sent a team of investigators to the Sparwood area after a fire involving a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train there.

With files from Claire Fenton, Monika Gul, Hana Mae Nassar, and Tamara Slobogean

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