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Almost every home in centre of Lytton was destroyed by fire

The Village of Lytton documents damage done by fire of June 30. Residents will be able to tour area by bus on July 9.
Lytton fire 2021
A look at Main Street in Lytton before and after the fire of June 30, 2021, razed most of the Fraser Canyon twon.

In the wake of the deadly fire that swept through and destroyed much of Lytton on June 30, the Village of Lytton is reflecting on how it all unfolded.

A press release issued the evening of July 6 describes how village staff became aware of the issue when someone banged on office windows after-hours, alerting Mayor Jan Polderman to the issue. Firefighters were already combatting the blaze.

Polderman began reaching out to confirm the severity of the fire and, after connecting with the RCMP, was told officers were already evacuating residents from Fraser Street. Shortly after, he contacted the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to notify he was ordering a full evacuation of the village.

Lytton set three straight days of temperature records in late June, capping off the streak by recording the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada, at 49.6 C.

Those hot conditions were preceded by three months of exceptionally dry weather.

Typically, Lytton receives about 20 millimetres of rain in April and May and about 18 millimetres in June. But this year had been bone dry, with the village's weather station reading just 1.4 millimetres of precipitation in April, 7.5 millimetres in May and only a half-millimetre in June.

So, when temperatures soared above 40 C for five straight days, whatever moisture remained would likely have long been evaporated.

"These conditions allowed the fire to tear rapidly into and then through our Village," the release reads, referring to the recent hot weather.

The village said the fire appeared to start in the area of town closest to the river, with homes there burning first before spreading to the east with "ferocious speed” due to a "very brisk" wind blowing at the time.

While some buildings survived the flames, nearly every home in the centre of the village was destroyed, according to the village.

“Where many buildings stood is now simply charred earth; it is going to take in-person assessments to determine the actual state the damage,” the release states.

Residents themselves will soon have a chance to confirm that, as they will be taken by bus to tour the ravaged town on Friday, July 9, along with media.

Some homes east across the Trans-Canada Highway did survive, but have been cut off from utilities such as power, sewer and water.

The village said those utilities may be compromised to the point of being unsafe, noting the town's watershed may be contaminated by fire retardant.

"This will require testing and an in-depth on-site assessment," the statement reads.

That assessment so far has not occurred. People have been ordered to stay away, as toxic elements linger.

On Tuesday, Premier John Horgan spoke from Kamloops, having flown over the area with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Forests Minister Katrine Conroy.

"They are working to make sure that it is safe for people to come back and view the damage itself," Horgan said.

At least two people have been confirmed to have died in the blaze, according to the BC Coroners Service. Other people were injured, according to information from the village.

The Village of Lytton has allowed BC Hydro and Telus to re-enter the village to assess damage and remove hazards. Telus has provided a communication on wheels tower to restore cellular service to the area.

A rail bridge was also damaged in the blaze and has impacted service through the region, which has two tracks running through it, belonging to the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways.

Some have speculated the fire was caused by a passing train, but no cause has been confirmed.

The village said CN and CP will not have access to the village except in certain circumstances. CP will be allowed to conduct "critical fire suppression" on rail ties that may still be burning and repair its infrastructure on their right-of-way. CN can also conduct fire suppression, but no allowance has been made to repair infrastructure and access is restricted to an area north of the village from Jade Springs to Spences Bridge.

Village council's immediate priorities include locating and supporting residents and working to secure funding and supports to assist with clean-up, re-establishment of services and rebuilding of critical infrastructure.