Three fires along railway in Burns Lake

CN Train

The Burns Lake Fire Hall has responded to three fires along the CN Railway since March of this year.

“They all started on or next to the track bed with no apparent cigarettes dropped or anything like that. We have no way of knowing for sure how it all started, but it is our assumption that it was started by sparks off the train tracks,” said Burns Lake Fire Chief Robert Krause.

The most recent fire occurred on July 8 near McKenna School Road approximately 4 km West of Burns Lake. Two other fires occurred on March 21and April 24 in downtown Burns Lake near Gilgan Avenue.

According to Krause, all three incidents were minor tie fires that started right on the railbed. Railroad tie fires are otherwise known as Class A type fires that response teams can put out using water extinguishers as opposed to dry powder for fires involving electrical sources or flammable liquids.

The Transportation and Safety Board of Canada has continued to investigate the cause of the fire that destroyed most of the Village of Lytton and took the lives of two people. Experts suspect that sparks from a passing train initiated the fire.

According to the TSB website, various train and railway activities can cause fires. A train breaking can cause sparks to fly if the brake shoe is worn out. Rail repairs that involve welding can also produce sparks which can lead to fires; however, this type of activity on the railway is closely monitored for safety. Downhill or sudden breaking can also cause the railway wheels to become extremely hot.

In 2015, the Canadian National Railway Co. was held responsible for a fire near Lytton and ordered to pay over $16 million in costs.

Although the Burns Lake Fire Department cannot find any other probable cause for the three railway fires it has put out this year, they do not plan to seek compensation from the railway company.

“In the case of all three fires, because they were all minor tie fires and all in our response area, it’s too much trouble and effort to even bill CN for a small municipality, so we don’t even try to recover our costs from them,” said Krause.

According to statistics reported by the BC Wildfire Service, the province has had 1,163 fires since April of this year. In July, they have reported four new fires caused by lightning and 15 others caused by human activity.

BC Wildfire Service could not provide statistics for the number of fires caused by railway activity before press time.