Provincial rules suggest railway should pay city for wildfires along its tracks
But city won't say definitively whether it intends to seek compensation from CN Rail for weekend fires
Provincial legislation suggests CN Rail ought to compensate Winnipeg for fires alongside tracks — but the city won't say whether it intends to push the railway to pay up.
Earlier this week, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service deputy chief Tom Wallace said a series of grass fires in southwest Winnipeg may have been caused by a passing train.
After meeting with CN Rail officials Wednesday, he softened that position to state the cause of fires remains undetermined.
- Grass fires may have been sparked by train, Winnipeg fire department says
- Roads reopen following brush fires along Winnipeg rail line
- City's weekend wildfires investigation continues, vigilance urged as dry weather continues
The provincial Wildfires Act, most recently amended in 2015, states railways must compensate municipalities for the cost of fighting fires alongside railways.
The act states the railway "is liable for all costs and expenses of extinguishing the fire incurred by the Crown or a municipality that constitute a debt due to the Crown or municipality."
The act also states the railways are held responsible for fires alongside tracks, unless the company in question can prove otherwise.
"Where a fire originates within 100 metres of the centre line of a railway track, the railway … is presumed to have caused the fire unless satisfactory proof to the contrary is provided to the department," the act states.
'We do what's right': CN
CN Rail policy, however, appears to differ from the provincial legislation.
The railway does not automatically pay the city to deal with fires along its tracks, Manitoba public affairs manager Kate Fenske said in a statement.
"CN provides compensation related to brush fires. If we cause a fire, we do what's right when it comes to damages and costs," Fenske said.
"We continue to investigate the circumstances around the fires along our right of way of Sunday. That includes ongoing reviews of equipment, train movements and inspection reports."
The City of Winnipeg provided an oblique response to the question of whether it intends to demand payment for the grass fires along CN's track.
"We are currently exploring potential options to recover costs," communications manager David Driedger said Thursday in a statement.
Driedger did not respond to requests to clarify his statement.