October 21st, 2021

No evidence freight train set off wildfire in Lytton, B.C.: TSB

By The Canadian Press on October 14, 2021.

A man sits in a fire truck as the Lytton Creek wildfire burns in the mountains near Lytton, B.C., on Sunday, August 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

LYTTON, B.C. – The Transportation Safety Board says there’s no evidence that a freight train sparked a wildfire that destroyed the town of Lytton, B.C., this summer.

The agency said Thursday that unless new information comes forward, it has no need to investigate further and it won’t produce a report on the fire that killed two people.

It said the BC Wildfire Service and RCMP continue to investigate the inferno that began on June 30 and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The board’s report says investigators confirmed with both CN and CP railways that there had been no rail grinding activities on the track and found no signs of hot bearings, burned brakes or other potential fire-creating causes in a train that went through the community that day.

The safety board said in July that it sent investigators to the area to investigate any potential link to trains.

CP Railway said in a statement in July that it found nothing to indicate that any of its trains or equipment that passed through Lytton caused or contributed to the fire, while CN Rail said video footage posted on social media after the fire was not connected to Lytton.

“A fire is reportable to the TSB as a transportation occurrence if it is known that the operation of railway rolling stock causes or sustains a fire. There has been no report of such an occurrence made to the TSB by either railway that operates through the area,” the board says in its report released Thursday.

Kathy Fox, chairwoman of the safety board, said about a week after an investigator began assessing the situation that the wildfire during historically high temperatures of 49.6 C was a wake-up call that pointed to the serious need to prevent similar occurrences.

She said rail activity could set fire to something on the right of way and increased traction while a train is speeding up can throw sparks that could smoulder before a fire is ignited.

However, a board investigator collected samples of a black, coal-like substance gathered from a track as a possible source of ignition and tested it in a lab.

The board also collected samples of the substance that were sent to its engineering lab for analysis, the report says.

“Comparison samples gathered from a locomotive exhaust stack and a rail grinder vehicle were also collected and sent to the TSB lab for analysis. The spectral results revealed that the three analyzed samples have little in common.”

Jackie Tegart, the Opposition Liberal member of the legislature who represents Lytton, has said Premier John Horgan has not followed through on a pledge to rebuild the village.

However, Horgan has told the legislature that efforts are underway to bring together private, municipal, non-government and Indigenous groups to plan the future of Lytton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 14, 2021.

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