Minister of Transport announces precautionary measures to address safety concerns resulting from extreme weather and wildfire risks
July 11, 2021 Ottawa, Ontario Transport Canada
Transport Canada is committed to protecting communities along rail lines by putting in place necessary safety measures to reduce risks to public safety and the integrity of railway tracks and infrastructure.
An unprecedented wildfire has displaced hundreds of people in Lytton, British Columbia, the Lytton First Nation and the surrounding areas. Extreme weather and wildfire risk continues to pose an acute danger in British Columbia, as well as other parts of Canada. Therefore, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, today announced a Ministerial Order to immediately enact precautionary safety measures to further protect against wildfires in the context of extreme weather conditions.
The Ministerial Order, in effect as of midnight PDT, July 10, 2021, requires the following:
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 this 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.
- Where the air temperature is 30 to 32 degrees Celsius and the fire danger level for the area is “extreme”, Class 1 railways (Canada’s largest railways) must ensure train speeds are reduced to 25 mph where permitted track speed is between 26 mph and 35 mph and 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 this 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 issuance of this 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 issuance of this Order.
With extreme weather events occurring more severely and frequently in Canada due to climate change, it is important to have an adaptive regulatory system that responds to these new risks. This Ministerial Order will put in place interim measures while the department works with railway companies to incorporate these fire risk reduction measures on a permanent basis into the existing regulatory framework for railway operations in Canada.
“Unprecedented weather conditions in British Columbia continue to pose a serious threat to public safety and railway operations. The Government of Canada remains committed to supporting those affected by the devastating wildfires in British Columbia and 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.”
The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport, Ottawa
Transport Canada, Ottawa
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