By Goat Staff
In light of devastating wildfires in B.C. the federal Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, gave a Ministerial Order July 11th enacting railway safety measures to protect against wildfires during extreme weather conditions.
“Unprecedented weather conditions in British Columbia continue to pose a serious threat to public safety and railway operations,” said Minister Alghabra. “ The Government of Canada … will not hesitate to take any safety actions that are necessary to mitigate these risks to public safety and the integrity of railway tracks and infrastructure.”
An unprecedented wildfire displaced hundreds of people in Lytton, the Lytton First Nation and the surrounding areas this month. Extreme weather and wildfire risk continues to pose an acute danger in British Columbia, as well as other parts of Canada.
With extreme weather events occurring more severely and frequently in Canada due to climate change, the Ministry says the temporary Order will address concerns while the department works with railway companies to incorporate these fire risk reduction measures on a permanent basis.
The Ministerial Order, in effect as of midnight PDT, July 10, 2021, requires the following:
Extreme Weather Fire Risk Mitigation throughout Canada
Where the air temperature is 30 to 32 degrees Celsius and the fire danger level for the area is “extreme”, the following applies:
Class 1 railways (Canada’s largest railways) must ensure train speeds are reduced to 25 mph (40km/h) where permitted track speed is between 26 mph and 35 mph (41-56km/h) and reduce speed by 10 mph if track speed is 36 mph or greater.
Where the air temperature is 33 degrees Celsius or higher and the fire danger level for the area is “extreme”, Class 1 railways must ensure train speeds are reduced to 25 mph where permitted track speed between 26 mph and 50 mph and to 30 mph where the permitted track speed is 51 mph or greater.
From the date of issuance of the order until October 31, 2021, Class 1 railways must ensure that no locomotive is operated through an area where the fire danger level is “extreme” unless it has been inspected in the previous 15 days to ensure the locomotive’s exhaust passages are clear of combustible material, including oil accumulation and carbonaceous deposits in excess of 1/8 inch (3 mm) in thickness.
Class 1 railways must develop and implement an Interim Extreme Weather Fire Risk Mitigation Plan within 14 days following the order that at a minimum addresses fire detection, monitoring and response measures.
Class 1 railways must communicate the Interim Extreme Weather Fire Risk Mitigation Plan to municipal and other orders of government, including Indigenous governments or other Indigenous governing bodies, and establish a method for receiving comments for consideration.
Class 1 railways must complete and implement a final Extreme Weather Fire Risk Mitigation Plan within 60 days following the order.
Regarding operations between Kamloops and Boston Bar or between Kamloops and North Bend on the Thompson and Ashcroft Subdivisions:
From the date of the issuance of the order until October 31, 2021, when operating when the fire danger level in the area of the Subdivisions is “extreme”, Canadian National Railway Company (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) must:
Incorporate the deployment of fire suppression capacity into their operations that will ensure a 60 minute response time to any fires detected along the right of way of the Subdivisions in order to take steps to extinguish or control the reported fire, or to notify the fire service responsible for the area if the fire cannot be controlled without assistance.
Require that the conductor on any train be responsible for spotting for fires and reporting any fires or smoldering areas along the Subdivisions to Rail Traffic Control for response by fire services.
Ensure that any vegetation control measures are followed by removal of combustible materials; and
CN and CP must ensure that at least 10 fire detection patrols are conducted on the Subdivisions every 24 hours unless a train has not operated on the relevant Subdivision for a period of at least 3 hours.
CN and CP must consult with Indigenous governments or other Indigenous governing bodies located along the Subdivisions to incorporate considerations of Indigenous knowledge related to the presence of fire hazards, fire risk and control of fires into the preparation of Fire Hazard Reduction Plans and the Fire Preparedness Plans required under the Prevention and Control of Fires on Line Works Regulations.