Train brakes spark Fruitvale wildfire

A series of small wildfires were sparked by a Burlington Northern train in Fruitvale on Friday afternoon near the Petro Canada station.

A series of small wildfires were sparked by a Burlington Northern (BNSF) train in Fruitvale on Friday afternoon.

The train had just left Atco Wood Products headed toward Trail when sparks created six small grass fires, said Kootenay Boundary Fire Rescue regional fire chief Terry Martin.

Nine firefighters were called out to extinguish the fires, which began by the Petro Canada station on Main Street and spread sporadically for about one kilometre toward Trail, he said.

All fires were extinguished in under two hours, and no structures were threatened.

However, the BC Ambulance service was called to treat one firefighter at the scene for heat exhaustion.

Martin said that once the firefighter was cooled down, he was released back to the crews and assisted further with the clean up.

Although sparks from the brake systems on a train are not uncommon, the cause of Friday’s incident is under investigation by BNSF.

“This was a rare occurrence and something we don’t expect to see again,” explained Martin.

“Members of the railway were on site to check and run the line all the way down to Columbia Gardens to ensure that no more fires were started. At this point, we don’t know why the fires were started but it is being investigated by the railway.”

The plume of smoke from the grass fire sparked 10-year-old Zack Cure and his friend Nathan Doherty into action. The boys were playing by the Petro Canada station when the train went by.

“I didn’t see the fire part but I saw all the smoke,” said Cure.

The fast thinking Grade 5 boys ran to the gas station and alerted the attendants to call 911 to report a fire.

Although Cure didn’t stick around to watch the firefighters extinguish the flames, he was rewarded by the Petro Canada ladies with a treat later in the day.

“They called me a hero and gave me a free Slurpee,” he said.

Although there are no current fires in the Boundary zone, Jordan Turner, fire information officer for the Southeast Fire Centre, said that the fire danger rating is moderate to high across southeast B.C., with several pockets of extreme rating near Creston, Cranbrook, Nakusp and Revelstoke.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 from a cell phone. For more information on wildfire activity, visit bcwildfire.ca.

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