Residents of Lytton, B.C., return to their Fraser Canyon village today for a first glimpse of what remains after fleeing for their lives ahead of a raging wildfire last week.
The displaced residents have sheltered since then in communities as far away as Kamloops, Merritt, Chilliwack and Whistler, waiting for some direction about what comes next.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has arranged bus tours for residents who are prepared to see what’s left of their village, which set a record for the hottest location recorded in Canada during a heat wave just days before the fire.
A cause of the blaze remains under investigation, although local Indigenous leaders say train movement during drought-like conditions made their people anxious.
Canadian National Railway has said its trains were not linked to the fire and Canadian Pacific resumed its service through Lytton on Monday.
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has ordered all train traffic through Lytton to halt for 48 hours effective immediately, while residents are on the escorted tours through the village.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has organized bus tours, saying that while unescorted entry isn’t safe, work has been done to clear a way to permit taking residents through the area by bus.
More than 200 wildfires are currently burning in B.C. as the recent heat wave and parched conditions combined to raise the fire risk in many parts of the province to high or extreme.
Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services, says fires across B.C. have devastated many communities and families.
“At this critical juncture, it is imperative that we all listen to the voices of Indigenous leaders and engage meaningfully on a path forward that respects their needs and priorities, while ensuring rail safety and security,” Miller says in the Transport Canada statement ordering the two-day halt to trains on tracks between Kamloops and Boston Bar.
Lightning continues to challenge wildfire crews in British Columbia, but the BC Wildfire Service is also reporting some progress on at least one of the 15 most threatening fires in the province.
Hundreds of lightning strikes sparked more than half of the roughly two dozen new fires recorded across B.C. since Thursday.
But the wildfire service says slightly cooler weather and modest rainfall earlier in the week helped crews build guards around the entire perimeter of a roughly three-square-kilometre fire that forced evacuation orders and alerts near Durand Lake, southwest of Kamloops.
Strong winds this week near Lytton also spawned a spot fire on the west side of the Fraser River, but the wildfire service says crews responded aggressively.
It says firefighters, including 40 recently arrived from New Brunswick, are making progress laying guards and protecting buildings along other flanks of the 88-square-kilometre fire that destroyed Lytton.
About 174 fires have been recorded this week, 26 of them in the last two days, the wildfire service says.