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Forensic team arrives in Lytton, B.C.; investigation into deadly wildfire gears up

Click to play video: 'Crews begin to assess Lytton devastation' Crews begin to assess Lytton devastation
Several agencies including a forensics' team were able to enter the village of Lytton Saturday to begin assessing the damage and fatalities after Wednesday's devastating wildfire. Paul Haysom reports – Jul 3, 2021

An investigation into the cause and human cost of a devastating wildfire in Lytton, B.C., appeared ready to begin Saturday, as RCMP forensic teams arrived at the village.

Police and the BC Coroners Service had not previously been able to access the fire-ravaged community due to toxic smoke and other hazards on site.

Global News has learned heavy machinery, a mobile command centre and a drone were also being deployed to the community to aid in the investigation.

A CN Rail command centre was also deployed to Boston Bar.

Read more: ‘It brings tears to my eyes’: Fate of missing residents weighs heavily on Lytton, B.C., mayor

At least two people are feared dead, and sources tell Global News the death toll could be higher.

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Officials have not been able to estimate the number of people missing, because residents scattered to multiple nearby communities amid the sudden evacuation order.

Click to play video: 'What’s next for Lytton residents?' What’s next for Lytton residents?
What’s next for Lytton residents? – Jul 3, 2021

Lytton First Nation Acting Chief John Haugen told Global News on Saturday that members of his community were spread as wide as the Lower Mainland, Squamish, Kamloops and Kelowna.

“For many it’s traumatic. They still haven’t been able to really wrap their head around (that they) have no home to go back to,” he said.

“But we have to hold out hope that we are going to rebuild stronger, do as much as we can to assist them, have those healthy lives that are connected to our community.”

Read more: Lytton wildfire: Preliminary reports of at least 2 deaths, coroner says

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Anyone who was evacuated from Lytton is urged to register with emergency social services to help officials better understand who may actually be missing.

Click to play video: 'Most of province remains under high to extreme danger' Most of province remains under high to extreme danger
Most of province remains under high to extreme danger – Jul 3, 2021

Trucks with the RCMP Forensic Search and Evidence Recovery Team were seen staging just outside the Lytton checkpoint on Saturday afternoon.

An investigation into the cause of the fire also looms.

Eyewitnesses have told Global News they saw a train braking and coming to a stop at the edge of town, shortly before smoke began to billow in the area.

Read more: Cause of Lytton, B.C., wildfire not yet known, resident saw train brake then smoke rise

CN Rail and CP Rail both have tracks that pass through the Lytton area. Both companies told Global News they are offering full assistance to authorities in the investigation.

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An estimated 90 per cent of structures in the community were destroyed by the fire, which broke out some time before 6 p.m., Wednesday.

On Friday, operators of the Lytton Chinese History Museum, which focuses on the contributions of thousands of Chinese miners, railway workers, merchants and farmers, confirmed the structure had burned to the ground.

As of Saturday, the Lytton Creek wildfire was estimated at about 8,300 hectares (83 square kilometres) in size and moving north.

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