First look at devastation for Lytton, B.C., residents left homeless after wildfire

First look at devastation for Lytton, B.C., residents left homeless after wildfire
Structures destroyed by wildfire are seen in Lytton, B.C., on Thursday, July 1, 2021.

Just as residents of Lytton are returning to the community for a first look at what remains after they fled a wildfire last week, the Transportation Safety Board says it is sending investigators to the village.

The board says in a brief statement it is deploying a team following a fire that involved a freight train in Lytton.

A cause of the blaze remains under investigation, although local Indigenous leaders say train movement during drought-like conditions made people anxious.

Canadian National Railway has said its trains were not linked to the fire and Canadian Pacific resumed its service through Lytton on Monday.

The statement doesn’t say which rail line is being investigated.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has ordered all train traffic through Lytton to halt for 48 hours effective immediately, while residents are on escorted tours through the village.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District organized bus tours for displaced residents Friday, saying that while unescorted entry isn’t safe, work has been done to clear a way to permit taking residents through the area by bus.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said fires across B.C. have devastated many communities and families.

“At this critical juncture, it is imperative that we all listen to the voices of Indigenous leaders and engage meaningfully on a path forward that respects their needs and priorities while ensuring rail safety and security,” Miller said in the Transport Canada statement ordering the two-day halt to trains on tracks between Kamloops and Boston Bar.

More than 200 wildfires are burning in B.C. as a recent heat wave and parched conditions combined to raise the fire risk in many parts of the province to high or extreme.

Lightning also continued to challenge wildfire crews in the province, but the BC Wildfire Service reported some progress on at least one of the 15 most threatening fires in the province.

Hundreds of lightning strikes sparked more than half of roughly two dozen new fires recorded across B.C. since Thursday.

But the wildfire service said slightly cooler weather and modest rainfall earlier in the week helped crews build guards around the entire perimeter of a roughly three-square-kilometre fire that forced evacuation orders and alerts near Durand Lake, southwest of Kamloops.

Strong winds this week near Lytton also spawned a spot fire on the west side of the Fraser River, but the wildfire service said crews responded aggressively.

It said firefighters, including 40 who recently arrived from New Brunswick, are making progress laying guards and protecting buildings along other flanks of the 88-square-kilometre fire that destroyed Lytton.

About 174 fires have been recorded this week, 26 of them in the last two days, the wildfire service said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2021.


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