Some residents of Lytton, BC, say they are disappointed and angry at a new finding that train activity did not trigger the massive wildfire that devastated their town last summer.
In a report released Thursday, the Department of Transportation Safety (TSB) concluded that there was no “final link” between rail operations and the fire that forced about 300 residents to evacuate the village in southern BC on June 30.
“I think I can speak on behalf of all the Lyttonites that there is a lot of disbelief and anger over this find,” said Kevin Loring, who was born and raised in Lytton and lost his family in the fire.
“There are eyewitnesses who saw the train that started the fire.”
Forest fire that destroyed Lytton, BC unrelated to train activity: report
The flame killed two people, injured others and destroyed about 90 percent of the city’s infrastructure.
It began after several days of record heat in Lytton, in an area where locals know train passengers have started fires before.
TSB finds no evidence of trains starting Lytton fires
According to the TSB report, a Canadian Pacific train carrying 157 cars passed through Lytton 18 minutes before the fire was reported in the suspected area of origin of the fire, but no conclusive evidence was found to be the cause.
Pressure from journalists confirmed to TSB that it did not conduct any “direct interviews” with Lytton residents during its investigation, but said it was conducting “extensive” work.
100 days after fire in Lytton, BC, raged, residents still feel scattered, ‘frustrated, isolated’
“You have to wonder if they are not caught up in the industry they have to monitor,” said Loring, who now lives in Ottawa.
“If you have eyewitnesses to the story of what started the fire and you do not interview them, then how can you come to the conclusion you are making?”
Loring posted a video on Twitter, shared with him by an observer who he believes captures the cult train and the fire together.
Mayor reflects on signing order to evacuate Lytton, BC amid devastating wildfires
Jade Baxter of the Skuppah Indian Band has similar questions.
“If there is not a proper commitment or management or eyewitness, then how can we trust that the investigation was conducted correctly?” she said in an interview with Global News.
“I think there is a big gap in terms of the way the Transport Safety Board engaged with local communities, especially the indigenous community that is directly affected by this.”
Baxter lost his apartment in Lytton to the fire and has since helped run an emergency surgery center in his community.
The First Nation was not informed of TSB’s report results prior to publication.
‘Where buildings stood is simply charred earth’: New video of Lytton, BC, shows destruction
Edith Loring-Kuhanga, school administrator at Stein Valley Nlakapamux School in Lytton, said she was also “extremely disappointed” and “frustrated” by TSB’s results.
“A lot of local people have actually worked for railways over the years, and they themselves have seen and witnessed fires,” she explained. “Running the trains in the hot weather … should never have happened.”
She questioned the thoroughness of the investigation when no residents of Lytton were interviewed, saying she was not surprised that there was no fault in a massive “company”.
100 days after devastating wildfires, hundreds of evacuated Lytton residents have not yet returned
For the most part, the residents of Lytton remained scattered on hotels and rental properties and on sofas with friends and family.
Since the fire, they have rejected the lack of direct communication with those from all levels of government working to rebuild the city and rehousing for its residents.
At least $ 78 million in damage estimated from devastating fire in Lytton, BC
“This (discovery) just adds another layer of frustration on top of what we’re dealing with,” Loring-Kuhanga said.
“There are so many families who are right on the edge right now and this news is a kick when we are down,” Loring added.
BC Wildfire Service and RCMP are still conducting their own investigations into the fire.
Transport Safety Council chairman Kathy Fox said Thursday that the board would reopen its investigation if it receives “new information that is convincing that links rail operations to the Lytton fire.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.