KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s premier had a first-hand look at the damage done to Lytton by a wildfire that has ravaged most of the community, and he says he’s confident the town will be able to rebuild.
After flying over the Fraser Canyon Village Tuesday, John Horgan said, “it was a moving experience,” surveying the “damage to a once-vibrant community.”
The wildfire in Lytton tore through the community last week, and is now about 7,723 hectares in size. The fire has forced the evacuation of the town, destroying most homes and critical infrastructure. The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed two people were found dead in the village.
When it’s safe to do so, Horgan says he’d like to “bring closure to this most horrific of experiences” by bringing residents back to their town so they can start “that long road to rebuilding.”
“People want to … get back into town and start doing the work that they need to do to rebuild their community stronger than it was before, with a view to the future with a view to building a community that is representative of the challenges we have with climate change,” he says.
“The town of tomorrow will not be the town of the past. The community is ready for that. And the province stands ready to help them do that.”
Meanwhile, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District released a statement that said the Lytton evacuees will get a chance to see whether or not their homes survived this Friday.
The district, along with the Lytton First Nation is coordinating bus tours, which will take residents on a clear path through the village Friday.
Since residents evacuated to various cities, there will likely be several pickup points – including Whistler, Chilliwack, Merritt, and Kamloops.
Most of the village is deemed unsafe for unescorted entry, but a safe path has been cleared for a maximum of two members per household to tour through.
Just a week ago, the province experienced temperatures like no other, with much of B.C. experiencing a “heat dome.” Temperatures hit about 40 degrees for some parts of the province. Lytton broke the record for the highest-ever temperature recorded in Canadian history for three straight days.
Horgan says this unprecedented heat made it hard to prepare.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “The lesson we’ve learned is that this is not necessarily a one-time occurrence, and we now have to prepare for successive seasons like this.”
“This is the way of the future in our rural communities — those that are forested — we need to do that work to make them fire safe … we’re going to have to work harder to make sure that we don’t duplicate the experiences,” he says pointing to the management of the health crisis like the global pandemic or the results of climate change like wildfires and floods.
Horgan adds that changes “clearly” need to be made to how the province prepares adding the vision it to build a future that is “climate-friendly and ready to take on the challenges of a changing world.”
He adds, he believes Lytton can be used as an example and a case study for North America, “in how we build a community for the future.”