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Lytton, B.C. resident launches lawsuit against CN and CP Rail for allegedly sparking wildfire

Click to play video: 'Proposed class-action lawsuit over Lytton fire' Proposed class-action lawsuit over Lytton fire
The fire that destroyed the town of Lytton and killed two people has spawned a proposed class-action lawsuit that alleges the fire was started by a train. Grace Ke reports – Aug 18, 2021

A former resident of Lytton, B.C., who lost her home in the Lytton Creek wildfire on June 30 has now filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

Carel Moiseiwitsch lived in Lytton and had a graphic design company out of her home.

In this filing, Moiseiwitsch says that when Lytton broke the all-time Canadian record for heat at 49.6 C on June 29, it was at a level where it is unsafe to operate trains.

“The Province of British Columbia (the “Province”) notified the defendants of extreme risk of wildfires, which was the highest possible rating according to the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System. High winds are known by the defendants to regularly blow Northeast through the Fraser Canyon and through Lytton in the summer months,” the document reads.

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It says at approximately 3 p.m. on June 30, a freight train operated by CN Rail combusted in Boston Bar, approximately 39 kilometres south of Lytton.

“The defendants caused or contributed to a wildfire that burned down the Village of Lytton (the ‘Lytton Fire’). The Lytton Fire started at approximately 4:15 p.m. on June 30, 2021 in an area of Lytton known as ‘Hobo’s Hollow’, on the East side of the Fraser River at the place where the CN Rail bridge crosses the Fraser River in Southwest Lytton,” the document continues. “High winds bearing approximately Northeast at 60-70 km/h spread the fire and by approximately 6:00 p.m. on June 30, 2021, all of Lytton was consumed by the fire caused by the defendants.”

CP Rail owns the freight train while CN Rail operates the train and owns the tracks.

It is believed that about 95 per cent of the Village of Lytton was destroyed when the fire swept through the small community.

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The blaze is now an estimated 84,327 hectares in size.

Moiseiwitsch said the fire destroyed her home, business and personal items. She said she was almost killed fleeing the flames and has been homeless and paying for temporary housing and provisions ever since.

She said she has suffered psychologically and lost her cat in the blaze.

“This lawsuit that has now been filed is brought on behalf of everyone who suffered loss of real or personal property or business losses in the Lytton fire, everyone with a subrogated claim for recovery of insurance indemnity paid in relation to damage and other losses in the fire, all governmental entities with loss of real or personal property or business losses in the fire and all everyone who sustained personal injuries,” the filing states.

The lawsuit goes on to state that CN Rail and CP Rail caused the Lytton fire through actions such as operating the train in what it knew, or should have known, were unsafe conditions, failing to inspect the train, failure to maintain the railway in a condition suitable for train operation in such dry conditions, and failing to have a fire preparedness plan or to update the plan every five years to account for elevated fire risk resulting from climate change, including increased winds and temperatures, among other reasons.

In a statement, CP rail said the cause of the fire remained under investigation and that “any conclusions or speculation regarding any cause of the Lytton fire or contribution factor remains premature.”

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None of the allegations have been proven in court and CN Rail and CP Rail have not filed a statement of defence at this time.

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