OHS Canada Magazine

CN cuts cheque to help cover cost of fighting Winnipeg brush fires

September 24, 2018
By The Canadian Press
Compliance & Enforcement Health & Safety Transportation Fire Public Health & Safety rail

WINNIPEG – Canadian National Railway says it’s sending a cheque to the City of Winnipeg to cover firefighting costs after a series of brush fires suspected of being caused by a CN train.

The city confirms it sent an invoice to the rail company on Aug.7, and CN confirms it’s paying up.

The fires broke out as a freight train made its way through Winnipeg from east to west on May 6, at a time when southern portions of Manitoba were experiencing tinder-dry conditions.

Homes and businesses were threatened and trees, fencing, building material and Manitoba Hydro poles were burned.

CN later said an internal investigation turned up no evidence that the train caused the fires, despite internal fire department communications, documents and video footage that all suggested the freight sparked the flames.


CN is paying for the cost of fire crew deployments, which the city has calculated to be roughly $62,000.

“CN did receive the invoices and the full payment is in process,” CN spokeswoman Kate Fenske wrote in an email to the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday.

The May incident occurred at a time when the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service was stretched thin answering brush fire calls on a daily basis.

Documents later obtained by the Free Press revealed that fire Chief John Lane, who was in San Antonio, Texas, attending a conference, lamented there was not much he could do to help his overworked department.

The situation was serious enough that Lane offered to cut his trip short and return to Winnipeg.

In an email to colleagues, he hinted that CN was likely to absolve itself of any blame in the fires, despite the fact his firefighters on the ground had quickly pointed to the railway as the culprit.

“I have been warned that CN has a pattern in other provinces of denying responsibility,” Lane wrote in an email to colleagues.

Fenske told the Free Press on July 19 that after a “thorough” review, CN turned up no evidence that indicated its “rail operations or equipment” caused the fires.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Canadian Press


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