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‘The core of the village has been devastated’: Lytton, B.C. wildfire leaves trail of destruction

Click to play video: 'Lytton fire: Two dead and a town gone in minutes' Lytton fire: Two dead and a town gone in minutes
The Village of Lytton is a smouldering scene of complete destruction, after a wildfire destroyed much of the town. Emad Agahi has the latest on the fire that killed at least two people, had residents literally running for their lives – Jul 1, 2021

Officials are beginning to get a sense of the scale of the destruction left behind by an aggressive wildfire that tore through the community of Lytton, B.C. on Wednesday.

The fire broke out shortly after 5 p.m. on the south side of the community following three days of record heat, and ripped through the village within “minutes,” according to one town councillor.

It has since grown to at least 9,000 hectares in size.

Read more: B.C. wildfire map 2021: Location and size of the fires burning around the province

Click to play video: 'Catastrophic damage after fire tears through Village of Lytton' Catastrophic damage after fire tears through Village of Lytton
Catastrophic damage after fire tears through Village of Lytton – Jul 1, 2021

Read more: Several buildings destroyed after wildfire forces evacuation of Lytton, B.C.

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An estimated 1,000 people from Lytton and surrounding areas were ordered to evacuate, many with as little as 15 minutes notice.

Click to play video: 'Lytton, B.C. residents flee wildfire days after village recorded record heat' Lytton, B.C. residents flee wildfire days after village recorded record heat
Lytton, B.C. residents flee wildfire days after village recorded record heat – Jul 1, 2021

“It’s absolutely devastating and tragic news,” Thompson-Nicola Regional District Chief Administrative Officer Scott Hildebrandt said.

“We’re hearing many reports and confirmations that (in) the village of Lytton, there’s a lot of structural damage. We’ve heard of the hospital, Main Street, the ambulance location as well. The core of the village has been devastated.”

B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth confirmed Thursday that the majority of the community had been destroyed, and said there were still people unaccounted for.

MP Brad Vis, who represents the region, wrote on Facebook that 90 per cent of the village had burned, including the town centre. Neighbouring Telus and BC Hydro centres had also seen extensive damage, he added.

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There has been no official confirmation of deaths or injuries.

Click to play video: 'Lytton fire evacuees scattered throughout several B.C. communities' Lytton fire evacuees scattered throughout several B.C. communities
Lytton fire evacuees scattered throughout several B.C. communities – Jul 1, 2021

Read more: ‘Get out of there’: Family who fled Lytton, B.C. wildfire describes escape, panic

 

A photo taken by a first responder shows the scale of destruction in downtown Lytton. Submitted
Fire sweeps through the village of Lytton on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Jack Zimmerman

 

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Major emergency operations centre and evacuee reception site were been established in Merritt, Kamloops, Chilliwack and Kelowna  and evacuees were being urged to register.

Evacuees can also register through the province’s online registration tool.

Read more: Heat wave: As B.C. bakes, what role does climate change play?

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The cause of the fire remains undetermined, but Hildebrandt said it may have been sparked by a train passing through Lytton.

BC Wildfire Service Fire Information Officer Erica Berg couldn’t confirm the size of the fire but said further growth was expected Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Dozens of wildfires burning across B.C.' Dozens of wildfires burning across B.C.
Dozens of wildfires burning across B.C – Jul 1, 2021

The firefighting efforts were being led by the Lytton Fire Brigade, but BC Wildfire Service crews along with firefighters from neighbouring communities were on scene to support them, she added.

High winds, combined with scorching heat — a high of more than 49.5 C Tuesday, after reaching 47.5 C on Monday and 46.6 C Sunday — created the opportunity for the fire’s explosive growth, she said.

Those temperatures set an all-time Canadian record on three consecutive days.

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Read more: ‘Get out of there’: Family who fled Lytton, B.C. wildfire describes escape, panic

Click to play video: 'Possible state of emergency for B.C. wildfires?' Possible state of emergency for B.C. wildfires?
Possible state of emergency for B.C. wildfires? – Jul 1, 2021

“Usually we’re dealing with fires in forests, fires that perhaps border communities. But this one occurred so close by and potentially within the community.

“We do our best to station crews throughout zones and respond as quickly as possible, but with how conditions have been, it just moved so quickly.”

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said officials were still working to coordinate with evacuees, given the sudden and chaotic nature of the evacuation.

“Usually we can guide people to emergency centres, but because of the speed of this fire, people scattered to be safe,” she said.

“It’s pretty early in the process but we are looking at how we can support people who have left the community.”

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Read more: B.C. wildfire map 2021: Location and size of the fires burning around the province

Click to play video: 'Was Lytton fire caused by a spark from a moving train?' Was Lytton fire caused by a spark from a moving train?
Was Lytton fire caused by a spark from a moving train? – Jul 1, 2021

She said elected officials were working with the TNRD and the provincial government to try and connect with all evacuees to ensure they have support, including somewhere to stay.

Lytton First Nation deputy chief John Haugen said members had evacuated to a recreational centre in Lillooet, but that leaders were still trying to account for everyone.

He said part of the issue is a lack of cell service in the community, as well as people being forced to leave with little time to prepare.

Click to play video: 'How to search for loved ones missing in B.C. wildfires' How to search for loved ones missing in B.C. wildfires
How to search for loved ones missing in B.C. wildfires – Jul 1, 2021

GoFundMe has created an online hub of verified fundraising campaigns for people who wish to donate to fire victims.

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B.C. Premier John Horgan is expected to provide an update on the province’s response at 1 p.m., Thursday.

-With files from the Canadian Press

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