Lytton, B.C., fire update: Missing persons accounted for, 2 possible origin sites investigated
VANCOUVER -- An update on the investigation into a devastating fire that destroyed most of a B.C. village includes that police are focusing efforts on two possible points of origin.
The B.C. RCMP provided an overview Monday on its joint investigation with the BC Wildfire Service into the June 30 fire in Lytton and nearby Indigenous communities.
Officers said there are multiple agencies involved in the investigation, and multiple aspects are being analyzed.
This includes whether there is an element of criminality involved. Much of the investigation and subsequent action or inaction will hinge on how the fire started.
"We have heard the concerns of those impacted and understand the importance of having answers around how and why the fire started," B.C. RCMP Asst. Comm. Eric Stubbs said in the statement Monday.
"While significant progress has been made in the past 12 days… the exact cause has not yet been determined."
POSSIBLE ORIGIN POINTS
The update includes that two sites have been searched, one being a two-kilometre area near Boston Bar, and another being a park and parking lot near a rail bridge in the village.
Police said investigators had completed a "fulsome" search of both sites, and collected physical and digital forensic evidence during those searches.
Few details were given about the Boston Bar site, though it may be related to a Transportation Safety Board investigation into whether there is a connection between the fire and trains that pass through the area.
A short time after the fire, Transportation Canada ordered a two-day halt on the tracks between Kamloops and Boston Bar.
By car, Boston Bar is about a half-hour drive from Lytton.
Nothing has been confirmed, but witness Brandon Flaig told CTV News he'd seen what appeared to be a rail cart full of lumber on fire. Flaig said a bridge also appeared to be on fire, and that he'd seen this the afternoon of the Lytton fire in an area about 10 or 15 kilometres away.
Video posted to social media by Flaig was brought to the attention of the Canadian National Railway. A spokesperson for CN Rail said the train in the video, which was surrounded by smoke at the time, had passed through Lytton hours before the fire, and showed no sign of damage.
An Indigenous chief in the area told CTV News that he couldn't speak to the June 30 fire, but that trains are a common cause of fire in the Fraser River canyon.
The TSB investigation is separate from the RCMP investigation, and is focused on safety.
The second site Mounties are looking at is a park and parking lot at the end of River Drive in Lytton.
The RCMP said the area includes access to a pedestrian and rail bridge across the Fraser River.
Specifically, Mounties said, they're looking at anyone and any vehicles – including a southbound freight train – that were in the area at around 4:30 p.m. the day of the fire.
FIRE EXPERTS CALLED IN
For its part, BC Wildfire Service specialists are aiding in the investigation into what sparked the fire and where.
Its experts are trained to look at how fires behave, including burn patterns and other evidence, in addition to identifying ignition sources.
"An assessment of these factors helps determine where a (fire) started and identify the probable cause of that fire," BCWS Deputy Director of Provincial Operations Kurtis Isfeld said in the statement released by the RCMP.
MISSING PERSONS ACCOUNTED FOR
Additionally, Mounties said they'd followed up on "more than 15" reports of possible missing persons. Within 11 days, all thought to be missing were located and determined to be safe.
However, the RCMP said it is possible others are unaccounted for, and asked anyone who hasn't been able to get in touch with a loved one to call or visit their nearest police detachment and report it.
The death toll remains at two, and those deaths are still being investigated by both the RCMP and the BC Coroners Service.
There have been no further reports of possible deaths as a result of the fire, the RCMP said.
Mounties are also looking for witnesses to come forward if they have any evidence or knowledge relating to the fire.