The mayor of Lytton says he’s hoping the fire-ravaged village can be rebuilt within 24 months, and as a model for other B.C. communities.
“I’m hoping we can get the town rebuilt in two years,” Jan Polderman told Global News.
But the process won’t be easy.
Lytton remains off-limits to virtually everyone, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment, while specialized teams remove toxic hazards, he said.
The village’s civic government has finally been able to secure a space in Kamloops to work out of, and is operating with a skeleton crew.
“It’s been very difficult. When we left town, we left with a cell phone,” he said, adding that the community’s website was now back up and running and communicating information to residents.
Polderman and councillors have been focused on the immediate needs of the evacuees, accommodations and food, but he said they’ve finally been able to turn an eye to what comes next.
He said he’s hopeful people will be able to return to the portion of the village east of Highway 1 in the near future, once it has been cleared and the water has been tested.
Then, the rebuilding. The village has retained the team that helped Fort McMurray recover, and is scouting out sites for temporary housing ahead of the long and hard work of rebuilding.
“It will be as close to town as possible. the team is looking at the benefits of the various locations it can be put,” he said.
“I’m very happy the owners of the sites have said they’re willing to work with us to put in a temporary village almost.”
Polderman said the community has retained outside help to work on a new community plan and re-design the town.
It has also secured firm commitments from the federal and provincial governments to help rebuild and has a vision of something good coming from the tragedy.
“We’re going to become a net-zero community, hopefully, we’ll become the model for Vancouver,” he said.
“I hope it brings the town and the First Nations to come together to create a brighter future for all the people in the area.”
That dream, however, remains years away.
In the meantime, Polderman is urging patience from his constituents, who remain spread out over half a dozen B.C. communities.
He said he understands that evacuees have many questions and legitimate concerns, but that officials are sharing information as soon as they get it. In many cases, there simply aren’t answers yet available.
“All our people are trying to do our best. We’re very limited,” he said.
“Even all of the agencies we’re working with don’t have the answers.”