A weeklong hearing is underway in B.C. Supreme Court where lawyers are trying to get a class-action lawsuit certified for Lytton residents impacted by 2021’s devastating wildfire.
Lawyers representing lead plaintiffs Christopher O’Connor and Jordan Spinks argued in court filings that the 2021 blaze that destroyed much of the Village of Lytton and the Lytton First Nation reserve was sparked by trains passing through the village.
Both Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway are named defendants, alongside a railway compliance company, five unnamed corporations, one John Doe and one Jane Doe.
“Through this suit, victims seek to hold the defendants accountable for their conduct and to recover their losses,” reads a notice of civil claim.
The Lytton Creek Wildfire started in the late afternoon of June 30, 2021. It quickly tore through the village and killed two residents.
The fire burned out of control for more than two months.
O’Connor is a resident of Lytton. His house was destroyed by the blaze and he is now living in an Airbnb in Merritt.
Spinks is a resident of a reserve governed by LFN. He worked as a care aide at Spintlum Lodge prior to the fire. The facility has not reopened following the blaze and he lost his job.
Lawyer Anthony Vecchio, who is representing the two men, said the goal is accountability.
“At the heart of it, we’re trying to get liability,” he told Castanet.
“We’re saying the trains, in effect, were the reason the fire started. We have eyewitnesses, we have experts, we know where it started. We know trains spark fires.”
On Oct. 14, 2021, the Transportation Safety Board said it found no evidence that rail operations caused the Lytton fire.
The certification hearing is slated to conclude on Friday. If the class action is certified, it would proceed to settlement or trial. If it is not certified, individual plaintiffs would be on their own to seek compensation.