Lytton B.C. waits to rebuild two years after devastating wildfire

Click to play video: 'Lytton residents mark two year anniversary of catastrophic fire'
Lytton residents mark two year anniversary of catastrophic fire
Friday marks two years since a catastrophic fire tore through Lytton, killing two people and destroying much of the town. Residents gathered to mark the day, and say the long-stalled rebuild of their community will finally begin. Kylie Stanton reports – Jun 30, 2023

It has been two years since a massive wildfire roared through the Village of Lytton, B.C., burning 90 per cent of structures and homes.

Two people also died in the blaze.

The devastation caused by the Lytton wildfire also affected the Nlaka’pamux Nation, the village of Lytton, and the greater Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

However, the rebuilding process has yet to begin.

Click to play video: '‘Lytton has been forgotten’: B.C. town battles to rebuild two years after wildfire disaster'
‘Lytton has been forgotten’: B.C. town battles to rebuild two years after wildfire disaster

Mayor Denise O’Connor, who grew up in Lytton and lost her home in the fire, said it’s unbelievable the process hasn’t started yet,

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“I think there’s going to be huge lessons learned on how to do things differently,” she said. “Particularly in small communities when so much of the community has been destroyed.”

The B.C. RCMP said the investigation surrounding the blaze remains active. Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said investigators continue to assess for criminality but noted there is no timeline for completing the work.

In a statement, Premier David Eby and Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Na said the province has been supporting debris removal, environmental remediation and associated archeology requirements, including the protection of Nlaka’pamux heritage resources.

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“The Village of Lytton is transitioning from recovery to rebuilding and has lifted the state of local emergency,” the statement read. “Hydro, water and sewage water infrastructure are being repaired and the boil-water advisory has been lifted. The village has established an office within the community and local events are resuming. We know that people are eager to return to their community and there is much to be hopeful about.”

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The Village of Lytton is now accepting building permits, the province confirmed.

O’Connor, however, told Global News that none have been issued.

The Village of Lytton and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District are now suing Canada’s two national railways and Transport Canada, alleging they were negligent in letting trains pass through the town during the deadly 2021 heat dome, before the community was razed by wildfire.

The lawsuit says a train passed through the village 18 minutes before the first report of a fire near the tracks that eventually destroyed 90 per cent of the town’s buildings and scorched an additional 837 square kilometres of land.

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In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on June 16, lawyers for Lytton and the district allege Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways continued to operate in late June 2021, despite record-setting heat and an extreme wildfire danger.

The lawsuit says the railways failed to ensure the train’s braking and other systems were safe, that they didn’t use reasonable fire prevention methods, and failed to watch for smoke or fire along the tracks.

A report from the Transportation Safety Board, released in 2022, stated investigators could find no evidence that the wildfire was started from a spark from a train.

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