LYTTON, B.C. — The Canadian government has asked Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to halt rail operations between Kamloops and Boston Bar, B.C., for 48 hours while residents of a town that was destroyed in a wildfire last week return to inspect their homes.
Last week, 90 percent of the village of Lytton in the Fraser River Canyon was destroyed by a fire. Rumors spread in the community shortly after that the fire had been started by a passing train, but now officials are saying it was possibly caused by humans. The investigation into the cause continues. Regardless, Canadian officials have asked that rail traffic through the town pause for safety for at least 48 hours starting Friday morning. Officials said that historically dry conditions have primed the landscape for more fire.
“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting those affected by the devastating wildfires in British Columbia. This Ministerial Order is being put in place in the interest of safe railway operations and to protect residents who are temporarily returning to inspect their homes as safely as possible,” said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.
The fire damaged a CN bridge near Lytton, forcing both railroads to use the CP main line. Both railroads coordinate operations through the tight Fraser and Thompson River Canyons. The bottleneck has had a major impact on operations and railroads are warning customers to expect delays in the coming days and weeks. Teck Resources said it expects to ship 500,000 fewer tons of steelmaking coal during the third quarter because of the delays.
Following the fire, CP and CN both pledged significant amounts of money to help the community of Lytton rebuild. CP said it would give $1 million to support recovery efforts and CN will chip in $1.5 million.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by this devastating fire, including the CP employees who lost their homes,” said CP President and CEO Keith Creel. “So many lives have been impacted. We hope that this support will help the community and the team of responders as they begin to recover and rebuild.”