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TNRD clarifies role in lawsuit against railways over devastating Lytton fire

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District owns two buildings in Lytton

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has issued a statement clarifying its role in a lawsuit filed against two railways over the devastating Lytton fire that destroyed 90 per cent of the village on June 30, 2021.

After it was reported that the Village of Lytton and the TNRD were suing CN Rail, CP Rail, and Transport Canada for alleged negligence stemming from allowing trains to pass through the town during the deadly 2021 heat dome, the TNRD released a statement saying they are only tied to the lawsuit because of their insurance company.

The TNRD and the Village of Lytton owned the municipal building in Lytton that housed the Village of Lytton offices and and the Lytton Library, which was insured by the Municipal Insurance Association of B.C. (MIABC). As the insurance company, MIABC is required to pay out any damages or losses from the fire.

However, MIABC also has the right to file for subrogation. This means that while they will pay out the insurance claim no matter what, if they find any at-fault parties they have the right to go after those parties to recover the costs paid out to the TNRD.

The notice of claim was filed in the B.C. Supreme Court on June 16, nearly two years after the fire. It claimed that a train that passed through the village roughly 18 minutes before the first report of a fire near the tracks was the reason 837-square kilometres of land was destroyed.

There is no evidence that railway companies were at fault, but as the second anniversary of the fire approaches, the two-year limitation period to bring a civil claim is set to end. The MIABC has filed to extend the statute of limitation period, requesting to expand it until June 30, 2024.

Deanna Campbell, general manager of corporate and legislative services for the TNRD, says she wants to clear up several misconceptions.

“It’s hard to say that we are suing anyone because we are not. Our insurer has simply filed a notice of civil claim,” she said. “If they serve the parties within the next year, then a lawsuit has commenced, and legal proceedings will commence, and the third parties will have 21 days to respond.

“Until that time, we’re just seeing the note that is filed stating it’s the right of our insurer to do that.”

On the early evening of June 30, 2021, during a historic heatwave, nearly every property in Lytton was destroyed. The blaze quickly jumped from property to property, all within a few hours.

The cause of the fire has not been confirmed. In a report issued last year, the Transportation Safety Board said they found no evidence linking the fire to nearby train activity.

Transport Canada responded to the investigation surrounding the incident, saying in a statement that “The safety and security of Canada’s transportation network, including our railway system, remains of the utmost importance to the department.”

The cause of the blaze is still being investigated. None of the defendants named in this notice of civil claim have been served.