BC Wildfire Service responds to blaze near fire-ravaged Lytton

BC Wildfire Service responds to blaze near fire-ravaged Lytton

An aggressive fire was spreading Thursday just west of Lytton, B.C., the same community all but wiped out by a blaze last year.

BC Wildfire Service reported the fire was about 1.7 kilometres northwest of Lytton, on the west side of the Fraser River, and dozens of properties were being evacuated.

Rob Schweitzer, director of fire centre operations for the service, said four initial attack crews and two unit crews responded, and helicopters and airtankers have also been dispatched.

“Crews will continue to work through the evening and overnight as required,” he said during a news conference Thursday. “The RCMP and local fire department are also responding to this fire.”

Schweitzer said the wildfire was first reported to the service around 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

“Gusting winds in the area this afternoon are impacting the fire behaviour and crews in the air and on the ground are seeing and observing moderate fire rates of spread,” he said.

Heavy smoke, accessibility and terrain presented challenges for personnel.

While the cause is still unknown, the fire grew to about 200 hectares by 7:30 p.m. An additional 40 personnel were set to arrive Friday.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued evacuation orders for dozens of properties in Electoral Area I Thursday evening, while the Lytton First Nation ordered evacuations on reserves 23, 27B, 27 and 27A. Reserve 9A and 9B were on evacuation alert.

Flooding complicated the evacuation, with the regional district directing evacuees to take Spencer Road North to Lillooet for emergency support.

“The route south to Boston Bar on the west side of the Fraser River has been compromised due to the spring freshet, and the Lytton Ferry remains out of service due to high water,” it says in a notice.

Lytton First Nation Deputy Chief John Haugen said about nine people from his community had been evacuated from their homes by late afternoon.

“We have three elders who are in direct line of this fire and we’re working to make sure that they’re safe, and that we can get the fire out as soon as possible,” he said.

Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations at Emergency Management BC, said some buildings may have already been destroyed.

“We have received reports that approximately three structures may have been lost, but this has yet to be confirmed,” he said.

EComm, the 911 emergency communication operator for most of the province, said in a statement that landline and cell service is unavailable in Lytton and for the areas nearby of Boston Bar and Spences Bridge, but Brach said the outage is believed to be unrelated to the fire.

A wildfire roared through Lytton on June 30, 2021, killing two people and destroying most of the village.

“The events of 2021 and the impacts to the village of Lytton and the Lytton First Nation are at the forefront in our minds. Our primary objective is the safety of the crews and the residents who are currently impacted,” Schweitzer said.

“All wildfires are dynamic incidents and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press

-With files from Amy Smart in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

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