A freight train sparked two brush fires while travelling through Maple Ridge on Monday.
Sparks from the locomotive’s chimney ignited tinder dry grass along the Canadian Pacific railway tracks around 1:30 p.m., according to a witness who reported the fires.
The fire department shut down the tracks while crews from Maple Ridge extinguished the fires in two different locations off Lougheed Highway, between 256th and 270th streets.
“We got multiple calls about the fires,” said fire chief Dane Spence.
The fire at 270th St. spread quickly, moving up hill towards the highway. Spence said embers even blew across the highway.
Crews from three fire halls were called in to fight the fires and took more than four hours to put out hotspots.
Since there are no hydrants along the train tracks, pumper trucks were used to ferry water to both sites.
The train reportedly sparked three more fires in Mission, but Spence was unable to confirm that.
Ed Greenberg, with CP Rail, said the incident is under investigation.
“CP will be working with local fire authorities to determine what started the fires,” he added.
The last train that travelled through the area was stopped and inspected by CP Rail after the fires were reported but inspectors found nothing out of the ordinary.
Fire officials are asking residents to be cautious as several weeks of sunshine and dry weather have parched brush, increasing fire risks.
In neighbouring Pitt Meadows, there have been four recent bark mulch fires and one grass fire.
The grass fire destroyed an expensive hay bailer.
Pitt Meadows fire chief Don Jolley said all the mulch fires started in garden areas near businesses or apartment buildings, and although there was potential for extensive property damage, the threat was low.
“We believe that all but the grass fire were started by improperly discarded cigarettes,” added Jolley.
The fire department is asking drivers to refrain from discarding cigarette butts in bark mulch and from throwing them out of car windows while still lit.