A fire broke out in the evening of June 24 beside a CN Rail line near a farm by Forestdale Canyon, west of Burns Lake.
It is believed sparks from the line started the fire.
The blaze started around 7 p.m. in the ditch beside the rail line and spread onto private property, a resident told Lakes District News. The high amount of dead undergrowth caused it to spread fast.
But CN stated that the fire started on property adjacent to the railway company’s land, spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis said. He added that he couldn’t comment on the fire’s cause as it was under investigation.
The blaze was estimated to be 0.2 hectares in size, said Carolyn Bartos, Fire Information Officer for the Northwest Fire Centre (NWFC).
A barn, a house and wooden fencing were at risk of catching fire.
Local residents spotted the blaze and thanks to their quick response, they immediately started pumping water from a nearby pond and using a fire hose to douse the flames.
Some neighbours used shovels and water cans from which they manually pumped water.
The passing of three trains on the railway line slowed down the residents’ progress, as the fire hose – connected to the pond on the other side of the tracks – had to be taken off the rail line each time a train went past.
When asked why the trains didn’t slow down or stop, Abecassis said the incident was under investigation.
About an hour later a CN worker arrived in a truck that had some water but it was depleted quickly. As to whether or not the amount of water in the truck was sufficient to fight a fire, the spokesperson said the incident was under investigation.
By 8 p.m. volunteers had managed to put the fire out except for some smouldering spots.
An initial attack crew from the Nadina Fire Zone of the BC Wildfire Service arrived and told the residents they could leave and that the crew would finish it. That crew was on location until 10 p.m., Bartos said, adding that firefighters returned on June 25 to do a final patrol and declare the fire out.
Bartos said it’s a railroad fire, the origin of which is traced back to railway activity conducted on the railroad line.
Abecassis said that CN had no further comment on the incident as CN was looking into it.
Two such fires have occurred in the NWFC this year, one of which was an instance of smouldering grass beside a CN line near Stellako in April. The Prince George Fire Centre believed sparks from the railway might have ignited the grass.
CN’s fire response protocol varies depending on the fire, the spokesperson said.
The company makes compensation when it has found its operations caused a fire, but Abecassis did not elaborate.
“Safety is a core value at CN and we apply many different techniques to ensure safe operations during the summer months, taking into consideration the different factors of the areas where we operate both for prevention and the safe movement of goods,” he said.
If any emergencies, including fires, occur near the company’s lines the public can call the CN Police at 1800-465-9239.