UPDATE: Friday, July 2, 9 a.m. PST
By Justin Franz
WEED, Calif. — A historic heatwave baking the Northwest is now turning into a historic fire season that is impacting rail operations from California to British Columbia.
In northern California, Union Pacific’s Black Butte Subdivision remains closed after the Lava Fire — which by Thursday had torched nearly 20,000 acres near Mount Shasta — damaged track and the Dry Canyon Bridge, impacting rail operations between Redding, California, and Eugene, Oregon.
“Our engineering team is currently assessing the damage to our rail infrastructure, including the Dry Canyon Bridge near Hotlum,” said spokesperson Robynn Tysver.
Tysver said that trains were being detoured via Donner Pass and it was unclear when normal operations would resume, but if Amtrak’s plans are any indication, it might be a while. On Friday, Amtrak officials told Railfan & Railroad that the Coast Starlight would not run north of Sacramento for at least two weeks. Those with tickets between Eugene and Seattle between now and July 14 will be put on the Cascades. Earlier this week, passengers were bussed between Sacramento and Klamath Falls.
Meanwhile, further north in British Columbia, a devastating wildfire has reportedly destroyed 90 percent of the small town of Lytton, a station on both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, about three hours northeast of Vancouver.
The extent of the damage to rail infrastructure was unknown on Thursday, although photos online showed at least one bridge had burned. A spokesperson for CN said that the railroad was inspecting its track in the area impacted by the fire.
“The events occurring in Lytton are deeply distressing and we at CN are very concerned for the safety of residents and the impacts of this devastating fire,” the railroad wrote in a statement. “We have reached out to local elected officials to offer our assistance. We want to offer our support to the people of the First Nation of Lytton and we are committed to assisting this community during this tragic event.”
Earlier this week, Lytton broke the record for all-time high temperature in Canada at 121.1 degrees.