Transportation Safety Board investigates possibility that a train sparked fire in Lytton, B.C.

Transportation Safety Board investigates possibility that a train sparked fire in Lytton, B.C.

The Transportation Safety Board says new information it received on the suspected source of the fire that raced through Lytton, B.C., on June 30 prompted it to launch an investigation into trains in the area.

Hundreds of people fled their homes on a moment’s notice June 30 after a fast-moving fire tore through the Village of Lytton and nearby First Nations in B.C.’s Fraser Canyon. Conditions in the area were dangerously dry and windy after the record-breaking heatwave in which temperatures rose to almost 50 C in the community. (Edith Loring Kuhanga/Facebook)

The Transportation Safety Board says new information it received on the suspected source of a fire that raced through Lytton, B.C., on June 30 has prompted it to launch an investigation into the possible involvement of a freight train.

The board says in a statement the information came as a result of investigations by the RCMP and B.C. Wildfire Service into the cause of the fire.

The safety board says it is not yet known which rail line is linked to the train in question and neither Canadian Pacific Rail nor Canadian National Rail has filed any occurrence reports related to the Lytton fire.

No cause for the fire that destroyed almost all of the village and killed two people has been disclosed, although local Indigenous leaders say train movement during drought-like conditions made people anxious.

Canadian National Railway has said its trains were not linked to the fire and Canadian Pacific resumed its service through Lytton on Monday.

Canadian Pacific Railway locomotives in the Fraser Canyon south of Lytton, B.C. on July 3. ( James MacDonald/Bloomberg)

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has ordered all train traffic through Lytton to halt for 48 hours effective immediately. 

Meanwhile, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District organized bus tours for displaced residents Friday, saying that while unescorted entry isn’t safe, work has been done to clear a way to permit taking residents through the area by bus.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said fires across B.C. have devastated many communities and families.

“At this critical juncture, it is imperative that we all listen to the voices of Indigenous leaders and engage meaningfully on a path forward that respects their needs and priorities, while ensuring rail safety and security,” Miller said in the Transport Canada statement that ordered the two-day halt to train movement between Kamloops and Boston Bar.

More than 200 wildfires are burning in B.C. as a recent heat wave and parched conditions combined to raise the fire risk in many parts of the province to high or extreme. Lightning also continued to challenge wildfire crews in the province, but the B.C. Wildfire Service reported some progress on at least one of the 15 most-threatening fires in the province.

Hundreds of lightning strikes sparked more than half of roughly two dozen new fires recorded across B.C. since Thursday.

But the wildfire service said slightly cooler weather and modest rainfall earlier in the week helped crews build guards around the entire perimeter of a roughly three-square-kilometre fire that forced evacuation orders and alerts near Durand Lake, southwest of Kamloops.

Strong winds this week near Lytton also spawned a spot fire on the west side of the Fraser River, but the wildfire service said crews responded aggressively.

It said firefighters, including 40 recently arrived from New Brunswick, are making progress laying guards and protecting buildings along other flanks of the 88-square-kilometre fire that destroyed Lytton.

About 174 fires have been recorded this week, 26 of them in the last two days, the wildfire service said.