Spences Bridge residents air concerns over railway fires

Community finally meets with CN, CP Rail, TNRD

A meeting in Spences Bridge on Tuesday over railway-caused fires left one local participant wondering whether CN and CP would live up to their responsibilities.

About 30 people, including representatives of the railways and various government agencies, attended over concerns raised after four fires last summer in the vicinity of Spences Bridge.

Dwayne Rourke, a resident who raised the alarm over the hazard, felt he was in a jurisdictional maze, though an action plan was drafted by meeting's end.

"From my point of view, the emphasis was certainly not on prevention," said Rourke, adding that the rules on railway fire prevention are clear.

"The railways are compelled to have in place a plan with all local firefighting jurisdictions," Rourke said. He was hoping the railways would adhere to that requirement.

Verna Miler, an elder with the Cook's Ferry Indian Band, pointed out that First Nations managed fire through controlled burns to remove excess fuel. The railways did the same in the past, when such fires weren't a problem.

A CP official responded that they now spray weeds instead to avoid pollution.

"That's just a horror show as far as I'm concerned," Rourke said, noting when sparks fly and fires ignite, there is greater pollution as well as threats to life and property.

Rourke said he was pleased that the TNRD has taken a lead role on the issue.

Ron Storie, TNRD emergency services supervisor, chaired the meeting and said he will be preparing the action plan in coming days.

The meeting went well, yet the matter is complicated by overlapping jurisdictions, he said.

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