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‘Hoping we can get the town rebuilt in 2 years’: Lytton mayor shares vision for future

Click to play video: 'Lytton Mayor on his community’s spirit and plans to rebuild the village' Lytton Mayor on his community’s spirit and plans to rebuild the village
WATCH: Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman says while the eventual goal is to rebuild Lytton as a net-zero "green" community, right now the focus is on providing for those who lost everything to the fire. – Jul 16, 2021

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.

Read more: Cause of Lytton, B.C. wildfire still unknown as police look at ‘possible criminality’

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.

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Click to play video: 'Multiple investigations into fire that devastated B.C. town of Lytton' Multiple investigations into fire that devastated B.C. town of Lytton
Multiple investigations into fire that devastated B.C. town of Lytton – Jul 12, 2021

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.

Read more: Lytton, B.C., residents make the emotional return to burned-out town

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.

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“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.”

Click to play video: 'Heartwarming reunion of Lytton resident and dog that was left behind' Heartwarming reunion of Lytton resident and dog that was left behind
Heartwarming reunion of Lytton resident and dog that was left behind – Jul 12, 2021

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.

Read more: Lytton evacuee calls for more support, clearer communication from government

“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.”

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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.”

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