Lytton wildfire survivors want their lawsuit certified as a class action in British Columbia

Posted on Categories Uncategorized

Two survivors of a wildfire that destroyed much of Lytton, B.C. in the summer of 2021 say their lawsuit should be certified as a class action. The chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court will decide whether the case, initially filed in October of 2021 by two residents who lost their homes, has a broader scope.

CBC News reported that on the hottest day of 2021, a fire in the Fraser Canyon burned more than 800 square kilometers, killed two people, and destroyed much of the village. Investigators found no evidence that a passing train caused the fire, but the lawsuit claims the fire was started by either a Canadian National or Canadian Pacific train on its way through the village. According to the Calgary Sun, lawyers for Christopher O’Connor and Jordan Spinks, the two representative plaintiffs in the case, argued in court that the fire was ignited as a result of a coal train owned by Canadian Pacific Railway passing through the village on June 30, 2021. Spinks is a member of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band and has said that he witnessed smoke and flames on CN Rail’s right of way, at or near CN Rail’s bridge that crosses the Fraser River. He had just finished his shift as a care aide at an assisted-living facility and lost his job as a result of the fire. O’Connor, a resident of Lytton, lost his home in the fire and had his vehicle damaged.

The railway companies deny any responsibility for the fire and cite a report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada that concludes there was no link between train operations and the fire. But Tony Vecchio, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the report was deficient in a number of respects and should not be relied upon.

“They didn’t have any basis to make this finding at all, on their own evidence,” Vecchio told B.C. Supreme Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson. He pointed out errors in the report, including the number of railway cars on the train, and said investigators failed to interview a number of witnesses.

The British Columbia Wildfire Service said that in 2021 between April 1 and September 30, 1,610 wildfires had burned 868,203 hectares (2.145 million acres) across British Columbia. Moody’s RMS reported those numbers were in stark contrast to 2019 and 2020 when the total area burned in the province was less than 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) per season.

On Sunday, June 27, the temperature in Lytton reached 46.6°C (116°F). On Monday it reached 47.7°C (118°F). And then on Tuesday, June 29, Lytton recorded the highest-ever temperature in Canada: 49.4°C (121°F). Extended drought conditions held through April and into June, meaning many areas were already on extreme fire hazard ratings when on June 29, 2021, the small town of Lytton made it into the record books for the third time in three days.

The Guardian has a photo essay of the Lytton fire online.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.