After a dangerous fire forced all residents of a small B.C. village to evacuate their homes Wednesday evening, the province’s solicitor general says some people are still unaccounted for.
Mike Farnworth spoke about Lytton’s devastating blaze at a last-minute news conference Thursday.
“Because the fire hit so fast, people evacuated very quickly, about 1,000 people,” he said.
The fire started in the late afternoon and by the evening, the mayor had issued an evacuation order for the entire village.
Lytton is located in B.C.’s Fraser Canyon area, about a two-hour drive southwest of Kamloops, and a three-hour drive northeast of Vancouver.
“We only had 20 minutes,” said resident Sherry Drynock. “So we packed up our RV and whatever we could.”
RCMP officers were going door to door telling people it was time to leave.
“I didn’t really have clothes or anything, so I kind of bought some clothes,” said Drynock. “Whatever we could grab, blankets, we didn’t really grab food or anything like that.”
Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman ordered an evacuation for the entire village at about 6 p.m. Evacuees were asked to register at the Emergency Social Services building in Merritt, and told they will be provided three days’ worth of supports if needed.
But Farnworth explained residents were asked to leave so quickly, they went different directions to multiple communities and some haven’t registered.
“We do know there are some people as yet unaccounted for,” Farnworth said. “The RCMP, Red Cross are working to ensure that we are able to identify quickly where people are. That’s why it’s important for people to register.”
Farnworth said officials didn’t have any confirmation on any injuries.
Ninety per cent the village has burned, the area’s local member of Parliament said on social media Thursday.
Brad Vis, who represents Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said the fire led to significant structural damage including in the village’s centre.
The MP posted the update to Facebook, explaining he would not be participating in any Canada Day festivities and instead will be devoting his time to the emergency in the Fraser Canyon.
“Neighbouring Telus and BC Hydro stations have suffered extensive damage,” Vis wrote.
“In addition, rail and highway infrastructure are affected. There is no access to Highway 1 north of Lytton, and Highway 12 is also compromised. Detours are available via Highway 8 and Highway 5. There are reports of several injuries. The situation is ongoing.”
Farnworth confirmed most residences and the local hospital were impacted by the fire.
Another resident, Ken Aljam said he just had time to grab two laundry baskets with stuff for him and his wife. They managed to get their dogs, but had to abandon their outdoor cats.
“There were ashes raining down so it didn’t look very good for anything,” said Aljam. “If it was hell I guess that’s what it looks like.”
Lytton made headlines this week after breaking the record for highest temperature recorded in Canada three days in a row. The record now stands at 49.6 C, beating the all-time heat record for Las Vegas.
Polderman told CTV News he’s believes there’s a chance part of the community will be left standing after the fire is extinguished, but that he wouldn’t be surprised if the flames eviscerated the entire village.