With video: An apocalyptic scene emerges in Lytton

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District arranged tours of the fire-ravaged Fraser Canyon village for residents who fled the flames and for media. KTW was on a bus that visited the destruction.


Trampoline frames, chimneys and skeletons of vehicles remain on Main Street in Lytton, a Fraser Canyon village about two hours southwest of Kamloops.

Usually home to about 250 people, Lytton remains eerily quiet today, with nary a resident in town. 

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Fire ripped through the community on June 30, leaving behind an apocalyptic scene.

With limited time to flee — estimated to be mere minutes — signs of what was left behind in the rush to get out remain: a hitched-up trailer, a truck with the tailgate down, ladders set up beneath a tree.

If something was built from metal or stone, it may have stood a chance inside the inferno, though chances are it would have been contorted into unnatural shapes, like a twist tie, or rest in piles resembling not much of anything.

That pile of rubble was the RCMP detachment. That blackened, jumbled mess was the ambulance detachment. That shell of a building, next to an untouched playgrounds and sports field, was the elementary school. The Lytton  Chinese Museum is no more.

But, unless you are a resident — many of whom toured the devastated town on Friday (July 9) before KTW and other media were brought in by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District — it is impossible to know what businesses once operated in row after row of razed buildings.

Most homes are gone.

The most important things — wedding photos, insurance documents, identification — would have burned. Signs of weaker materials, like wood, remain in anonymous piles of white ash on the ground.

Some things that remain in Lytton make sense, such as structures made of materials built to withstand such a force.

Others, not so much.

An Anglican Church remains seemingly untouched, with a cross, bell and stained glass window all ready to welcome Sunday morning patrons. Across from that church, a building is in ruins.

The Canada Post building looks unscathed, yet everything on either side and behind it has been reduced to charred remains.

A chimney stands nearby, next to a cavernous concrete foundation, wallless and revealing metal chairs set up in anticipation of a seated group.

In another location, a white lattice arbour stands amid the rubble at the edge of a property.

There is no rhyme or reason as to which properties burned to the ground and the few that remained intact.

TNRD CAO Scott Hildebrand said he took a helicopter ride to view Deadman River Valley, where the Sparks Lake wildfire burned through.

Hildebrand said he saw one valley blackened to a crisp and the next dotted with cows grazing on green pastures. He said embers come up, blow and burn land in various random locations. 

“They just get lucky,” he said of areas that escaped the flames. 

On Friday, a half-dozen buses carried about 200 Lytton residents — who remain scattered throughout communities in Interior B.C., including Kamloops — back to see what is left of their community. Media also caught a separate, but similar, glimpse on their own bus, led by TNRD emergency operations centre information officer Debbie Sell.

“Difficult day,” Hildebrand said, noting residents were grateful to return to Lytton and see neighbours again. He said he felt humbled to visit. 

Downed power poles line Highway 1 into Lytton, as do charred shrubs and blackened earth next to highway barricades. Branchless, fire-scarred tree trunks on hills leading into the village resemble porcupine quills dotting the landscape.

A burned semi-truck can be seen on the side of the road heading into town. From a highway vantage point and looking down into Lytton: a house with a deck, a bridge, a motorhome, building rubble, a swing set and two walls standing on their own, a view of water through them.

A charred hedge remains in front of a pile of rubble and vehicles are parked outside two walls of a building.

The skies were clear on Friday, not smoky, though reporters and photographers were required to wear N95 masks while inside the bus as the vehicle drove down Main Street.

In the days leading to the fire, Lytton had broken temperature records, recording an all-time Canada high mark of 49.6 C. Temperatures remained hot on Friday, in the mid-30s.

Temperatures so hot they can immediately dry out lands and fuel forest fires, which are so hot they can melt lamp posts and children’s slides.

Will children play again in Lytton? Only time will tell.

© Kamloops This Week



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