It’s been one year since a deadly fire tore through the Village of Lytton, levelling town buildings and causing catastrophic damage to homes and infrastructure as residents fled, and investigators are still working to determine exactly what happened.
The fire started a day after Lytton set the record for the hottest temperature in Canadian history for the third day in a row. The mercury reached 49.5 C in the community on June 29, 2021.
Flames began to sweep through the town early the following evening, burning about 90 per cent of the village. Some residents said they had only minutes to gather any essential items they could and evacuate the area.
In an interview with CBC immediately following the village's evacuation, Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman described a wall of flame moving through the community.
“I drove through town and it was just smoke, flames, the wires were down,” he said.
David Harrison, an evacuee from Lytton, said he was extinguishing a number of small fires on his property before becoming overwhelmed with a larger blaze — stopping his efforts after seeing the power lines burn off a nearby power pole.
“We’re not the only ones that are homeless — there’s a great many people. It's a tragic situation,” he said.
Investigations launched by the BC Wildfire Service and RCMP into the cause of the blaze are ongoing, according to a spokesperson for BCWS.
BCWS said once it completes its investigation, the information will be shared publicly.
In October, an investigation from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board found no evidence that a train was at fault for triggering the wildfire — something several residents, officials with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the Lytton First Nation thought might have been the cause.
Residents have said they feel the investigation was flawed.
One year later, debris removal for many properties is underway. The provincial government has dedicated a total of about $49 million in funding to aid in rebuilding efforts, while the federal government has pledged $77 million to help the village construct a fire-resistant and energy efficient community.
However, in the months following the disaster, many residents have said help has been slow to arrive for the community.
The MLA for Fraser-Nicola, Jackie Tegart, said in January that Lytton still looked as it did the day after the fire, with residents calling her office “beside themselves,” wondering when something might be done to kickstart the rebuild process.
Earlier this month, Mike Farnworth, the provincial minister of public safety, said he expects the physical rebuilding of the town to begin in September, noting part of the challenge lies in the need to rebuild Lytton’s entire municipal infrastructure.
“We want people back,” he said. “The reality is recovery takes time. It can take quite a bit of time.”
To mark the day, those impacted by the fire have organized a private event taking place on Thursday in the Lytton area. Community members will gather throughout the day for wellness activities, food, and will participate in creating and burying a time capsule.
A public closing event will have live music from 2 Rivers Remix Society performed from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Castanet Kamloops will have a reporter in the village on Thursday and will update this story throughout the day.