Lytton, B.C., still under evacuation order one year after fire
LYTTON, B.C. -- What was once the B.C. Village of Lytton is now a fire-scarred wasteland that is uninhabitable.
June 30 marks a year since a devastating fire burned about 90 per cent of the community. Even now, most of Lytton remains under an evacuation order.
“This is a state of local emergency and so nobody can come back until it’s all completely cleaned up,’ explained Owen Collings, who lost his home in the fire and remembers the day in vivid detail.
He says the fire was “absolutely a firestorm, unstoppable.”
A couple months after the blaze, he began working for the village, providing site support. That means he sees the devastation first hand, day in and day out.
“The emotions come and go,” he explained.
“Sometimes I just get a trigger.”
Collings is also the person who guides Lytton residents as they need to return to their former homes.
But some evacuees say it’s far too difficult to return to the rubble-filled village.
It’s just too painful. and I don’t think I’m unique,” said an emotional Edith Loring-Kuhanga, the administrator at Stein Valley Nlakapamux School and also a Lytton resident.
She lost all her belongings in the fire. The place where she lived also was destroyed.
She said she is frustrated at the pace of clean-up.
“Ten, 11 months later to finally start to see progress on the ground, that has been really difficult,” she said.
She compares the village to nearby Lytton First Nation where temporary housing is being set up.
“We started ordering housing back in August I believe so we have two, three subdivisions started (with) 39 temporary units,” explained Niakia Hanna, a councillor with Lytton First Nation.
LFN had expected to open the federally-funded homes this week but ran into delays.
In the Village of Lytton, close to 70 per cent of the properties had no insurance or were underinsured. It wasn’t until provincial funding was announced that remediation work to remove soil contaminants began in March. The area also has significant cultural importance and archeological assessments are required.
The clean-up is happening in stages, beginning with metal items being removed, then ash and then foundations.
“Some only have the surface debris, but down in my place, they’re already starting to take the earth,” explained Collings.
Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman told CTV News the clean-up is costing an average of $60,000 for each property.
So far, work is complete on only about 10 of the 150 properties, meaning there’s much to be done before evacuees can come home.