But new video, shot by Global News from outside the exclusion zone, is giving British Columbians a look at the damage that residents will soon see.
Footage shows burned-out cars and charred buildings and structures. In some cases, just a single wall is left standing and in others, scorched walls and trees can be seen standing amid the landscape.
Trains can be seen passing by the village and an excavator and firefighters were working through the rubble in another area.
It is still not known when residents will be able to get back to their homes and look at the possibility of rebuilding.
Casey Paul lives just across the river from Lytton and was home when the fire broke out on June 30.
He was sitting outside his house when he saw smoke rising from an area close to town.
“I could see it starting below the turnoff … where everybody parks their vehicles across from the train bridge and it was below that parking area where the fire was starting on this side of the footbridge.
“Everything in there, like a flash fire, all the grass and low-lying brush just went so fast. The rail guys had a truck over there but it was just too quick for them. It just took off along that whole slope, the flames were just moving so quick and fast with the wind.”
Paul said it wasn’t even 30 minutes before the flames reached Lytton and he could hear propane tanks exploding.
“Within an hour, from one end of town to the other end of town, everything was engulfed in flames.”
“At nighttime, the whole village was burnt out and it was just the memorial hall and the elementary school that was burning late at night.”
“Everything was just gone. I just hope everyone got out, it was so quick.”
He said he couldn’t see any vehicles or people leaving the village as the smoke was so thick from the wildfire.
Paul thinks they will rebuild the village when they are able.
“The post office made it. One house on the reserve made it,” he said. “But it’s so different.”
“A lot of people here that lost their homes have been here a long time. It will be good to see them come back.”
On Tuesday evening, the Village of Lytton issued a press release saying officials will keep everyone updated as much as they can with new developments.
They said the staff was alerted when someone banged on the office windows after-hours. They immediately contacted Mayor Jan Polderman and the Lytton Volunteer Fire Department Fire Hall and found that the firefighters were already battling fires.
Polderman then called 911 and found out RCMP officers were already evacuating residents on Fraser Street. That’s when Polderman informed the Thompson-Nicola Regional District he was ordering a full evacuation.
“A few buildings survived in town but nearly every home in the centre of the Village is gone,” officials said. “Where many buildings stood is now simply charred earth; it is going to take in-person assessments to determine the actual state of the damage. Fortunately, some homes east across the highway were spared but are currently without electricity, sewer or water. There have been several injuries and two confirmed fatalities.”
They hope to obtain more official information soon but said there are currently no services in the village — no hydro, water or sewer. The sewer treatment building did not burn down but it is not functional at this time, they said.
BC Hydro and Telus workers have been granted access to enter the village for damage assessment and to cap services where they are a hazard to first responders. Telus has brought in another larger communication tower to improve cell service in the area for the first responders.
“We are trying to ascertain if our watershed has been contaminated by retardant and what sort of physical state it is in. This will require testing and an in-depth on-site assessment. Infrastructure has been destroyed. What has not been melted, incinerated or damaged beyond repair has been compromised to the point of being unsafe.
“For those looking at heartbreaking pictures of our Village, please understand that if a wall is standing, it does not mean there is anything on the other side of it.”
The village said it is working with Disaster Psychosocial Services (DPS) to provide trauma and grief counseling for the residents and are looking to have DPS volunteers on the buses to assist with the shock people are going to experience upon actually seeing the devastation.
“Please understand that all of our Emergency Operations Center equipment was destroyed in the village office building,” officials stated in the release. “We have begun replacing all of our technology as well as basic office supplies. In the interim, we have set up our EOC in an office in the TNRD building and are currently trying to operate it from a couple of laptops, an iPad and our cell phones.”
The cause of the Lytton wildfire is not yet known but there has been much speculation it was sparked by the braking of a passing train.
Officials said CN Rail and CP Rail will have no access to the village with the following specific exceptions:
- CP Rail may conduct critical fire suppression response and critical repairs to their infrastructure only on their right-of-way, from rail-based vehicles, throughout their track through the fire area.
- CN Rail may conduct critical fire suppression response on their right-of-way, from rail-based vehicles, from Spences Bridge to Jade Springs but no further.
- This fire suppression is in relation to railway ties which are still burning and need to be put out to avoid triggering further fires.
Officials said they are so grateful to everyone who has reached out to offer support, supplies and kindness since the devastating wildfire.
“You have shown the true greatness that humanity can offer. We are a small community that has been devastated and we are all still reeling from the destruction of our homes, the tragic loss of life and the enormous impact this will have on us, both personally and financially, for years to come.
“In the coming days, weeks, months and years our hearts will break again and again as that trauma and loss is replayed in our minds and our souls. But we are Lytton, we are strong and we will rebuild our homes and businesses, rekindle our friendships and community, stronger and more enduring than ever.”