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TSB investigation of Lytton fire did not include interviews with village residents

TSB board chair Kathy Fox said the agency could not rule out 100 per cent from this investigation that a train may have played a part in causing the blaze
Lytton fire1
The Village of Lytton was reduced to ashes following the June 30, 2021 fire.

The Transportation Safety Board’s lead investigator said he was satisfied with co-operation received from the railways. While limited details were revealed about who was interviewed during the investigation, the investigator said Lytton residents were not interviewed.

The TSB confirmed the unidentified coal-like substance that was tested from the area the fire was suspected to have originated was discovered within five feet of the rail line.

Asked if the TSB could rule out 100 per cent from this investigation that a train may have played a part in causing the Lytton fire, board chair Kathy Fox said:

“No. All we have said is that based on all of the information we’ve collected from multiple sources, we have no evidence to support that railway operations caused or ignited the Lytton fire.”

Meanwhile, two other investigations involving fires in rail right of ways continue and Fox said the agency is receiving more train-related fire reports and plans to look at the issue of railway operations during times of high heat and dry weather conditions.

In 2021, it received 170 reports from railway companies about fires on a train or ignited along the right-of-way, compared to 79 in 2020 and 56 on average per year between 2016 and 2020.

Fox said that independent of the Lytton fire, increasing extreme weather as a result of climate change is leading to drier conditions, noting more needs to be done to ensure critical fires are not initiated by trains. She pointed to a ministerial order issued by Transport Canada during this past summer’s intense heat — after the Lytton fire — limiting rail activities.

KTW reached out to the mayor of Lytton, Jan Polderman, TNRD chair Ken Gillis and TNRD director Steve Rice. KTW is awaiting calls back from Polderman and Rice, while Gillis is on vacation and referred queries to regional district CAO Scott Hildebrand.

Hildebrand released a statement in the wake of the TSN investigation findings. He said he will never forget the Lytton fire and that his heart goes out to residents of Lytton and the Lytton First Nation. He read the TSB report.

“I certainly do not feel that the TNRD or myself as CAO is in any position to question these findings,” Hildebrand said. “I am sure there are strong opinions and reactions from the communities and on social media, but that is not for me to weigh in on. I am very encouraged that both BCWS and the RCMP are also investigating and looking at other options but that is yet to be determined.

“That all being said, the TNRD is working closely with EMBC (Emergency Management BC) and will continue to support the Village and the surrounding areas through our resiliency centre and will help in any way we can. I am sure the residents of Lytton and LFN are looking for some closure and information around this horrific situation and I hope that comes out at some point.”