'So many people have helped': Couple rebuilds home lost in Lytton fire, but village rebuild faces challenges
About four kilometres outside the burned-out Village of Lytton, there is something that is bringing people hope.
On a rural property, Don Glasgow and Tricia Thorpe have begun rebuilding after their home was destroyed in the wildfire last summer. They believe they are the first in the area to begin construction.
"We put our steel-toed boots on and we've started rebuilding our lives to the best of our ability," said Thorpe.
The couple lost almost everything in the fire and did not have insurance.
"It was awful. Nothing was left standing," Thorpe told CTV News.
But friends and strangers stepped up.
"So many people have helped. It just restores your faith in humanity … I always had faith in humanity, but this is just proof," said an emotional Glasgow. "Good people (are) out there, many good people."
He said volunteers have put in weeks, sometimes months of work, asking for nothing in return.
"Complete strangers came back and gave us an immense amount of building materials, wiring and tools," Glasgow said.
Anything the couple couldn't use or had duplicates of has been donated to other needy Lytton families.
But as Glasgow and his wife move forward, in the Village of Lytton – where 90 per cent of the community was destroyed – progress is slow.
"It's a very complex situation," explained Ron Mattiussi, the acting chief administrative officer for the village.
He says authorities are "on the verge" of starting the cleanup.
"There has to be cleanup … lots have to be surveyed … There has to be an archeological review because the Village of Lytton is being built on First Nations settlement," Mattiussi said.
He says there are also safety concerns.
"You have businesses with freezers, asbestos, chemicals that may have been in some of the industrial buildings," Mattiussi explained.
He says about 40 per cent of the homes were uninsured, making the task of rebuilding even more daunting.
"You can’t have individual insurance companies dealing with one house and then leaving the next,” he said. “So we’re trying to coordinate the overall removal so that we don’t recontaminate sites."
When asked if Lytton had a timeline for construction to begin, he said:
"I wish I could give the citizens – people living there – some certainty, but I can’t. It’s just there’s too many pieces in play, but it is our goal to get people back into their homes as quickly as possible."
Team Rubicon Canada recently wrapped up 91 days of work in the village that included sifting through ashes to help residents retrieve what may have survived the fire.
"In some cases, we have to literally sift using screens and even some cases right down to something like your kitchen strainer to recover the items," said Dave McAllister, director of field operations with the team.
The volunteer organization is made up primarily of Canadian military veterans.
McAllister said it was hard on team members when a property was too unsafe for them to enter, meaning sometimes they weren't able to help families.
"That was really difficult for our volunteers. I saw more than a few tears shed over that," McAllister said.
Samaritan’s Purse Canada has also finished similar work in the Lytton area, assisting people like Glasgow and Thorpe.
The couple said their new home is being built as fire-resistant as possible.
"It's made out of concrete,” Thorpe said. “Basically it has insulation on either side of the concrete wall."
Concrete was poured earlier this week. The roof will be metal.
The couple said they feel for the people who are still waiting to rebuild.
"There's people stuck in hotel rooms, still waiting for some kind of answers," Thorpe said.
She and her husband are filled with gratitude for the help they've received, including financial donations through an online fundraiser.
"If it wasn’t for the kindness of individuals and community pulling together, there's no way we'd be where we are right now," she said.
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