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Rail transportation safety investigation R21V0143

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Potential train activity-related fire

Vicinity of Mile 98.3, Canadian National Ashcroft Subdivision
Lytton, British Columbia (as reported by BC Wildfire Service)

The occurrence

On 30 June 2021, at approximately 1650 Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), smoke was spotted on the nearby hills around the pedestrian bridge which parallels the Canadian National (CN) bridge at Lytton BC.

Due to the high winds and dry conditions in the area, a fire, which had ignited, quickly spread to the Village of Lytton, destroying many buildings and homes. An evacuation order was issued by Lytton’s Mayor at 1800 PDT. Two fatalities have been reported at this time.

Initial investigations conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and BC Wildfire Service into the fire’s ignition point raised concerns regarding the potential involvement of a freight train. As such, the TSB deployed an investigator on 09 July 2021 to gather information and assess the situation.

To date, the TSB has not received any occurrence reports from Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) nor CN related to the Lytton fire.

What we know

The Lytton area had been very hot and dry for many days leading up to the fire, reaching Canadian records for heat on two days during this time. On 29 June, the Lytton reference climate station operated by Environment and Climate Change Canada recorded a record maximum temperature of 49.4 °C. The area was dry and high winds were present when a fire ignited.

Both CN and CP trains operated through the area during this period of extreme heat.

Work done to date and ongoing

Next steps

Backgrounders

Reporting an occurrence to the TSB

In accordance with the TSB Regulations, reportable accidents or incidents must be reported to the Board as soon as possible and by the quickest means available. A standby investigator is ready to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Direct or collect: 819-997-7887
Toll-free: 1-800-387-3557

The TSB administers a program called SECURITAS that enables you to report—in confidence—concerns you may have about safety in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation. The incidents and potentially unsafe acts or conditions you report through SECURITAS are not always reported through other channels. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will never reveal your identity or any information that could identify who you are. By reporting an unsafe act or condition, you can help make a real difference towards improving transportation safety.

Investigation information

Map showing the location of the occurrence




Investigator-in-charge

Photo of James Carmichael

James Carmichael has been with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) in the Railway/Pipeline Investigations Branch since 2008. During his time at the TSB he has been a key investigator in a number of investigations in Western Canada.

Before joining the TSB, Mr. Carmichael held various mechanical positions with four separate railroads. At British Columbia Railway (BCR) from 1980 to 2004, Mr. Carmichael gained considerable experience in the mechanical field; he worked as a carman and progressed into a management role as general supervisor in the Car Department. Over the next 4 years Mr. Carmichael worked for CN Rail and CP Rail as a mechanical supervisor. He was also regional manager for Mechanical with OmniTRAX's Carlton Trail, Hudson Bay, and Okanagan Valley Railroads. He holds certifications as a hazardous materials technician and tank car specialist and was a member of BCR’s Emergency Response Team. Mr. Carmichael lives in Calgary, Alberta.


Class of investigation

This occurrence is still being assessed. For more information, see the Policy on Occurrence Classification.

TSB investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

For more information, see our Investigation process page.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.