Edith Loring Kuhanga wants the railways to take responsibility for the deadly fire that swept through Lytton, British Columbia this summer, killing two people and destroying almost everything in its path, including her home.

Corn Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said they found no evidence linking CN Rail or Canadian Pacific Railway to the fire.

The TSB concluded in a report released on Thursday after what he called “significant investigative work” that included interviewing railway workers, reviewing video footage and performing a mock test on a train.

But Kuhanga and many other Lytton residents are not convinced. And they are not alone. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Lytton First Nation both said they believed a train was responsible for the fire.

CBC has contacted Canadian Pacific and CN for comment.

“We take note of the results of the TSB investigation,” CN said in a written statement. “We remain available to assist other authorities with their investigations and will continue to work with residents of the Lytton area as they recover from this devastating fire. “

Kuhanga spoke to As it happens host Carol Off on the TSB findings and the condition of Lytton. Here is part of their conversation.

Edith, do you accept the TSB’s findings that there is no evidence that the fire was started by a train?

Not at all. You know, where the fire started at the end of Fraser Street, I live at the other end – or I lived at the other end, it was right next to the train tracks. And [that’s] where the fire spread along the railroad tracks and this side of the street before starting to jump, then continued on the railroad tracks on the other side of the two rivers.

How can they not say that CN was responsible? [It’s] so disgusting, frustrating and upset[ting].

What the TSB investigation says [is] that they inspected the trains, they questioned the crews, they extracted video footage of the passing train, and they are unable to find any evidence of this ignition. So what do you think they didn’t watch?

There are a lot of people who have worked with rails over the years, and they can tell you a lot of stories where sparks started from fires.

So they haven’t spoken to the residents who have lived there for hundreds of years and know what the situation is like in hot and very hot weather. And it was extremely hot weather, as we all know, three days before the fire.

Freight trains are a common site in Lytton, BC, with the railroad going directly through the town of Fraser Canyon. (Matt Meuse / CBC)

In reality, it was the hottest day ever [in Canada]. He was 49[.6] C, extraordinarily hot, and there were fires everywhere … so wouldn’t there have been several ways the fire could have started other than the train?

I do not believe that. Not where the fire really started.

I still think CN is partly responsible, if not totally responsible. I think they have to accept some responsibility.

One thing I do know is we’re all still moved from Lytton 106 days later. No one accepts responsibility. And we have no end in sight.

I am very concerned for many of our seniors. It was the older population who lived right in the city center in the village of Lytton. What will happen to them? Will they be able to see their houses rebuilt? You know, a lot of them are 75, 80, 85. And so every day that’s wasted is a day stolen from them

Lytton’s images after the fire are images seen around the world. It’s just amazing to see this for anyone. I can’t imagine what it was like to have your own lost home there. What is left now? You visited. What can you actually see in Lytton?

There is still a lot of rubble. There are still a lot of cement structures that are still standing. In the house where I lived, there is the oil tank, part of the fence is still there, [and] some trees grow. The cement foundation is still there.

But nothing, really. I mean, you know, this is all basically rubble.

We really want to get in there. We want to have access to our properties. And we still don’t have the freedom to be able to enter the properties. And we want to start rebuilding. We want to be involved. Last night we asked the mayor and council to involve residents.

We are sitting on the sidelines. And yet, many of the retirees living in Lytton are professionals … and they could use all that expertise, and they aren’t. And so it’s frustrating. And I believe the provincial and federal governments must now step in and take action.

You mentioned how [the RCMP and B.C. Wildfire Service] are still investigating this and they believe the fire was man-made. There could be criminal charges arising from it. So what difference would it make to actually say it was a train?

[It would make] a difference as to who would be responsible and who would be responsible for footing the bill in terms of reconstruction. And now the TSB says the railroad is not involved and has no connection, we’ll see what the lawsuit, you know, the civil actions, the litigation coming up, [will find]. But it could go on for years and years, right?

Time is running out, especially for the elderly, and I just want there to be some action. Our mayor and our council do not have the capacity. They still haven’t distributed $ 30,000 in gift cards that were donated by businesses and the public. How are they actually going to get involved in rebuilding Lytton?

Does it worry you that without knowing the effects of trains going through communities, given that we are going to have hot days like this, we are going to have these kind of conditions, that there are no more study as to what could trains do? That Lytton may not be the first and the last?

BST [and] the Department of Transportation and all got out soon after the fire and made recommendations or policy changes on how trains should behave in hot weather. And hopefully this will bring some procedural changes during the very hot days.

But yes, we will not be the last community.


Written by Sheena Goodyear with CBC BC files. Interview conducted by Chris Harbord. The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.


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