The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it is deploying a team of investigators to Lytton, B.C., “following a fire potentially involving a freight train.”
It comes more than a week after a deadly fire swept through the community, killing at least two people and razing the majority of homes and buildings to the ground.
The RCMP and BC Coroners Service are already investigating the fire, but officials have been reticent to speculate on a possible cause.
On Sunday, RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts declined to comment on whether a train may have been responsible for the fire, saying only that the investigation would be “thorough” and that police were “open to any possibility with regards to the source, cause or origin of the (fire.)”
The Lytton First Nation and Thompson-Nicola Regional District have both suggested the possibility a train was responsible for the fire, and several witnesses have described seeing train fires in the area of Lytton ahead of the tragic incident.
Ryan Marander told Global News he saw a train on fire at Lytton between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. the day the community burned.
“We saw a train up on a trestle which was kind of in between the freeway and Lytton, and the train was stopped and underneath one of the flat deck cars, which looked like it was carrying lumber wrapped lumber, we saw fire underneath one of the cars looked to be maybe four feet in diameter or something at the base,” he said.
Another witness called 911 when he saw a southbound train on fire about 44 kilometres south of Lytton the same afternoon, just outside Boston Bar.
“It was fully engulfed, the grass was on fire, the trees were on fire, the train was catching on fire,” Gary Phelps said.
On Friday, Transport Canada issued an order banning rail traffic in the Lytton area for 48 hours, except for emergency fire response.
Both CN Rail and CP Rail have pledged to cooperate with any investigation into the fire, and have pledged financial support for Lytton residents.
CN is promising $1.5 million while CP Rail, which also runs track through Lytton, pledged $1 million.