MERRITT (NEWS 1130) — After a fire tore through the Village of Lytton — causing catastrophic damage — people in nearby cities like Merritt are preparing to help people who were ordered to flee their homes with almost no notice.
Wednesday’s fire came after the Fraser Canyon community recorded three straight days of record-breaking heat, with the temperature reaching 49.6 degrees Tuesday. An evacuation order was issued for 111 properties. Lytton’s mayor said the fire completely devastated the village, and people were frantic as they tried to flee the flames.
An evacuation centre has been set up in nearby Merritt, and city councillor Mike Bhangu says the scenes out of Lytton have been heartbreaking.
“It is a devastating and very shocking situation to be in, to have to leave your home that quickly, and to have it consumed by fire,” he says.
“I’m going to pray tonight. And I ask all others to also pray, pray for the safety of those in Lytton because I can’t imagine how they must be feeling. It’s bringing me to tears right now.”
Evacuees from #Lytton – Emergency Social Services building at 1721 Coldwater Avenue, Merritt is open as reception centre. Any Lytton evacuees in Merritt must register at this centre. Lodging and incidental support available for 72 hours on request. #GeorgeRoadFire
— City of Merritt (@CityofMerritt) July 1, 2021
Bhangu says the city is ready to do whatever is necessary to support the evacuees.
“This is a tragedy and it’s moments like this that we all must come together. British Columbians, we’re good like that. We are very good like that. Anytime there is an emergency we do band together, and we do help our neighbours. I foresee that happening this time around as well,” he says.
“I 100 per cent sympathize with the people there, as does the entirety of Merritt, and City Hall. We are absolutely here to help.”
More images from out out Lytton – this is what people were seeing just a few feet away from them as they rushed to their cars – and sped out of the village. Some literally only had the clothes on their backs, and left everything behind. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/Nrx4UMcQUt
— Tarnjit Kaur Parmar (@Tarnjitkparmar) July 1, 2021
Hotels in the city, like the Comfort Inn, are making every effort to free up rooms. Manager Ashish Duggal says they have already coordinated several bookings through the Red Cross.
“We’ll do our best, even if we need to rearrange or move some reservations around to make sure that there’s some available,” he says.
“We’ll make sure that you know we accommodate them for as long as they need.”
He says it’s not the first time they’ve opened their doors to people fleeing fires.
“This is something that happens in B.C. pretty much every year it’s just a matter of how bad it is in any given year. This is something we’ve dealt with before and we totally understand that it’s very unsettling for the evacuees, and we want to make sure we do our part to make them feel safe and comfortable.”
‘My heart just broke’
People living in nearby communities are opening up their homes to people escaping the wildfires.
Sarah Bergen lives in nearby Ashcroft and says she wanted to help after she faced a wildfire evacuation years ago.
“We experienced the Elephant Hill wildfire in Ashcroft in 2017 and I just wanted to help in any way that I could. So I put a post on Facebook, and I’ve opened up my home for people that are evacuated to stay with me.”
Community members are opening their doors to people escaping the wildfire in Lytton. Sarah Bergen is offering up her place in nearby Ashcroft for anyone who needs shelter. https://t.co/8QStaPISbX pic.twitter.com/mFNTRoAdIX
— Kareem Gouda (@KareemsGouda) July 1, 2021
She says she wanted to pay it forward, and offer the kind of support she and her neighbours received when their community was reeling from a fire.
“Ashcroft is a very tight community. Everyone is really close, and a lot of people that I know were personally affected. We lost a lot of homes. It was, it was a very scary time, but the community was amazing. Kamloops helped out, and lots of, lots of places had trucks from Fort St. John drive up here with food and supplies for us,” she says.
“I just have a lot of compassion, I understand how they must be feeling right now. I understand the fear and how they must be confused and feeling lost. I just would like to help out in any way that I can — and this is the only way that I can think of right now.”
The BC Wildfire Service says firefighters have been sent to help the Lytton Fire Brigade.
The #BCWildfire Service is responding to K71086 in #Lytton. At this time this is an evolving situation and we are working with the Lytton Fire Brigade.
This is an agency assist as the Lytton Fire Brigade is the lead agency on this fire.
— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) July 1, 2021
-With files from Greg Bowman