Wildfire that destroyed Lytton, B.C. not linked to train activity: report

WATCH: TSB: No evidence train caused fire that destroyed B.C. town

The cause of the wildfire that destroyed the town of Lytton B.C. was not sparked by any train activity, a newly released report has found.

The Transportation Safety Board released details of its investigation into the cause of the massive blaze on its website Thursday morning.

As a result of significant work to determine if there was a “definitive connection” between railway operations and the fire, the report said no link has been identified.

The wildfire remains under investigation by the BC Wildfire Service. The RCMP are also conducting a preliminary inquiry to determine the need for a parallel criminal investigation.

The wildfire that sparked on June 30 burned about 90 per cent of the small community in southern B.C.

Two people were killed.

Read more:
100 days after wildfire razed Lytton, B.C., still-scattered residents feel ‘frustrated, isolated’

The Lytton First Nation and Thompson-Nicola Regional District both suggested in the past the possibility that a train was responsible for the fire, and several witnesses described seeing train fires in the area of Lytton ahead of the tragic incident.

Ryan Marander told Global News he saw a train on fire at Lytton between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. the day the community burned.

“We saw a train up on a trestle, which was kind of in between the freeway and Lytton, and the train was stopped and underneath one of the flat deck cars, which looked like it was carrying wrapped lumber, we saw fire underneath one of the cars — looked to be maybe four feet in diameter or something at the base,” he said.

Another witness called 911 when he saw a southbound train on fire about 44 kilometres south of Lytton the same afternoon, just outside Boston Bar.

In its report, the TSB says Train C73152-29, a westbound Canadian Pacific (CP) loaded unit coal train with 157 cars, operated by CN Crew, was the last train to pass through Lytton on the CN Ashcroft Subdivision prior to the first report of the fire.

The train passed through the suspected area of the fire’s origin at about 4:30 p.m. PT, the TSB said, about 18 minutes before the fire was first reported.

It was travelling at 25 mph (40 km/h) with “low to moderate throttle to maintain speed” the report states.

CP 300-29 was the last train to pass through the Lytton area eastbound on the CP Thompson Subdivision prior to the 1st report of the fire.

The TSB says they did not receive a report from either CN or CP about the sparking of the fire and “nor were they aware of any such occurrence when specifically asked by the TSB.”

North edge of crossing at Mile 98.14 Ashcroft Sub looking eastward - BC Wildfire Service suspected origin of fire.

North edge of crossing at Mile 98.14 Ashcroft Sub looking eastward - BC Wildfire Service suspected origin of fire.

Transportation Safety Board

TSB investigators confirmed with CN and CP that no rail grinding activities or track work had taken place in the area of Lytton on June 30 or in the days before.

An investigator also inspected the train C73152-29 after it had been off-loaded and was secured in Burnaby, B.C., looking for signs of hot bearings, burnt brake heads, built-up tread, and other potential fire-creating causes and said no anomalies were found.

A safety inspection was also conducted at the request of RCMP and no anomalies were found, the TSB said.

Interviews were conducted with railway employees engaged in operating trains in the area or in maintenance activities and no anomalies were found, according to the report.

Residents of Lytton remain scattered in hotels, with family, or in the handful of homes still standing in the community.

A timeline or exact details of when residents can begin to return is still unclear at this time.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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