At least 6 homes lost as wildfire near Lytton, B.C. balloons to 1,500 hectares

Click to play video: 'Structures lost in rapidly growing Lytton wildfire'
Structures lost in rapidly growing Lytton wildfire
Structures have been lost in a rapidly spreading wildfire near Lytton - just a year after another fire all but wiped out the village. Kamil Karamali is in Lytton with the latest on the fire - and the residents who have faced this nightmare before – Jul 15, 2022

A wildfire burning less than two kilometres from Lytton, B.C. has grown to four times the size of Stanley Park and destroyed at least six residential structures, according to local First Nation officials.

Lytton First Nation Deputy Chief John Haugen said the number of destroyed structures could be as high as nine.

“It’s devastating and we have to be mindful about how we approach them and confirm those losses,” he said in a Friday news conference.

“It’s been really daunting. Sometimes there is no power here, and we are running short of water on the east side of the Fraser River, and without the ferry and service, it’s harder to get resources to the west side to assist with the fire.”

Click to play video: '‘Stay prepared’: Lytton First Nation official on wildfire burning in the area Friday'
‘Stay prepared’: Lytton First Nation official on wildfire burning in the area Friday

Shane Bernardo-O’Hara is among those who lost their homes.

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“Everything’s gone. Our whole livelihood,” he told Global News. “It’s horrifying.”

The destruction comes just over a year after a wildfire swept through the community of Lytton, virtually razing it to the ground and killing two people.

Cleanup, debris removal and archaeological work is ongoing, but reconstruction is not expected to begin in a substantive way until September.

Click to play video: 'B.C. safety minister recognizes wildfire burning near Lytton is stressful for residents, structures lost but no injuries'
B.C. safety minister recognizes wildfire burning near Lytton is stressful for residents, structures lost but no injuries

The new Nohomin Creek fire, first reported Thursday afternoon, has grown rapidly in size — last mapped at 1,500 hectares.

Firefighters battled the blaze throughout the night, and by Friday, there were at least 80 personnel on site. The team included three crews of 21 people, three initial attack crews, structure protection specialists, and an incident management team.

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Six helicopters, three air tankers and a bird dog plane were also deployed.

The fire is burning on the west side of the Fraser River and the BC Wildfire Service said it was growing on its west flank in steep terrain.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy confirmed the fire had jumped the river overnight, but that crews had contained the excursion.

Heavy smoke, accessibility and terrain are presenting challenges for crews to attack the fire, the wildfire service said.

“We saw a lot of fire growth driven on Thursday by wind,” said BC Wildfire information officer Taylor Colman.

“We are expecting another low-pressure system to move in on Friday and bring winds up to 40 to 60 kilometres an hour. Wind will continue to be a challenge as well as the terrain. It’s very steep and dangerous for firefighters.”

Click to play video: 'Nohomin Creek wildfire moving away from the community of Lytton'
Nohomin Creek wildfire moving away from the community of Lytton
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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said although the fire was growing, models suggested it was not moving towards any nearby communities.

He said there had not been any reports of injuries associated with the fire.

Environment Canada issued air quality advisories for the Fraser Canyon and 100 Mile House regions due to the fire, warning of significant wildfire smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The Lytton First Nation and Thompson Nicola Regional District have both issued evacuation orders and alerts, with emergency reception centres set up in Lillooet and Cache Creek. Emergency Management BC said an estimated 40 evacuees had registered in Cache Creek and about 70 in Lillooet.

“It’s critically important that residents in the region follow directions from their First Nation or local government, and if you’re placed under evac order, please leave immediately,” Farnworth said.

Click to play video: 'Emergency crews battle a new wildfire near Village of Lytton, B.C.'
Emergency crews battle a new wildfire near Village of Lytton, B.C.

Along with food, lodging and clothing, evacuees are being offered mental health supports, Farnworth added.

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“The smoke was getting closer and closer and hotter. We don’t have a vehicle so we just packed up the animals and started walking,” Tracy Davis, a Lytton-area resident who was forced to evacuate, told Global News Friday.

Some residents from the Lytton First Nation said they’re going to stay and help the community in Lytton.

“Last year, I ran away from the fire that happened in Lytton,” Lytton First Nation member Ivan Machelle said. “This time I wanted to stay to make sure everyone is okay.”

Click to play video: 'Lytton wildfire spreading rapidly, gusting wind and steep terrain a challenge to firefighters'
Lytton wildfire spreading rapidly, gusting wind and steep terrain a challenge to firefighters

Evacuation alerts and orders

An evacuation alert was issued around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District for 31 properties in the area of Highway 12 and the west side of the Fraser River (Blue Sky Country, Electoral Area “I”).

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District staff wrote the ongoing evacuation order that was issued at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday for 24 properties remained in place.

Lytton First Nation also issued evacuation orders for the following reserves:

  • Nohomeen IR 23
  • Papyum IRs 27, 27A
  • Lytton IR 27B
  • Papyum Graveyard 27C
  • Stryen IR 9

The TRND has set up an emergency reception centre at Lillooet Rec Centre, 930 Main St. in Lillooet, B.C.

Those in need of emergency support services are being asked to self-register using the Evacuee Registration and Assistance tool.

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The fire has been declared the province’s first “wildfire of note” of the season and is deemed out of control.


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