A Lytton man said his parents died in the fire that swept through town on Wednesday night (June 30), destroying the downtown strip and its surrounding buildings.
Jeff Chapman told Postmedia News the couple in their 60s took cover in a hole in the ground as their house, between the railway tracks and the downtown core, began to burn.
Chapman said he ran toward the tracks. Moments later, he saw a power pole explode and fall on top of the hole containing his parents.
“It’s their grave now,” he said on Thursday morning, waiting outside a motel in Boston Bar.
Chapman said the family was getting ready for a barbecue when they first saw smoke and, moments later, flames. He went inside to get a bucket of water and when he came out, the fire was licking at the house.
“Dad said, ‘Get what you can get and get out,’” he recalled.
The air became very hot as Chapman helped his mother, Janette, into the hole, which the family had been digging to repair the septic system.
Chapman’s father, Mike, a former mechanic who retired six years ago and moved the family from Mission to Lytton to fulfill a dream of living in the Fraser Canyon, climbed in beside his wife.
Chapman said he ran to the railway tracks, where he hoped the flames wouldn’t reach.
“I knew if I fell I’d be dead,” he said. “The gravel was so hot. I tried to find a place that wasn’t burning.”
In a video he shared with Postmedia, Chapman yells and screams as he watches his home burn. He tries to kneel and cover his head, but the gravel on the railway bed scorches him.
When Postmedia spoke to him on Thursday morning, he had a blister on his forehead.
When the fire died down a little, Chapman said he ran back to the house. He was distraught as he described how his truck appeared unscathed and he was able to drive it out of town to a nearby fire station, where he was reunited with his brother, Matthew, who had left earlier with the family dog, Smokey.
Chapman said emergency services has been notified.