Lytton wildfire lawsuit points finger at railways, government

Lawsuit over Lytton wildfire

A lawsuit has been filed against both national railways and the federal government seeking compensation for those who suffered losses in June when the Village of Lytton was devastated by fire.

The notice of civil claim was filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops, naming CP Rail, CN Rail, an American railway safety company, Transport Canada and seven unnamed parties as defendants.

The claim lists two plaintiffs — a Lytton man whose home burned down, and another who lost personal property and his job because of the blaze.

The lawsuit is seeking class certification, meaning it could be opened up to include any people or business owners in Lytton who suffered losses or were displaced due to the fire.

The claim alleges the defendants ought to have known it was not safe to operate railway equipment in the Lytton area in late June, when the region was setting new Canadian all-time heat records on a daily basis.

“The Lytton Creek wildfire began because a train owned and operated by one or more of the rail defendants passing through the Village of Lytton sparked a fire that spread through the Village of Lytton and surrounding areas,” the claim reads.

“The Lytton Creek wildfire was caused or contributed to by the negligence of the defendants in failing to minimize fire risk in fire-prone areas in British Columbia, including by ensuring that the area where the Lytton Creek wildfire started was clear of organic material and other fuel sources, and failing to maintain emergency firefighting or prevention equipment.”

The notice of claim alleges Canada’s railways have known for more than 100 years how dangerous train traffic can be in times of extreme heat.

“Despite record-setting temperatures and extended periods without precipitation in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the Lytton Creek wildfire, all of which was well-known to the defendants, the rail defendants failed to cease rail activity at or near the Village of Lytton,” the claim reads.

“Instead, the rail defendants continued to engage in rail activity … that was unsafe for the conditions, without any mitigation of the associated fire risk, thereby causing the Lytton Creek wildfire.”

The Lytton Creek wildfire started on June 30, quickly tearing through the Village of Lytton and killing two residents. The blaze burned out of control until early September.

None of the allegations in the claim have been proven in court.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is expected to reveal its investigative findings into the role of rail traffic in the cause of the Lytton Creek blaze on Thursday morning.

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