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.
An estimated 1,000 people from Lytton and surrounding areas were ordered to evacuate, many with as little as 15 minutes notice.
“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.
There has been no official confirmation of deaths or injuries.
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.
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.
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.
Those temperatures set an all-time Canadian record on three consecutive days.
“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.”
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.
GoFundMe has created an online hub of verified fundraising campaigns for people who wish to donate to fire victims.
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