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'There's nothing going on': No rebuilding underway nearly 2 years after Lytton, B.C. fire

A shallow dirt hole fills the space where Dean Adams once had a home.

He lost his house in the June 2021 Lytton wildfire that destroyed most of the village.

But almost two years later, rebuilding has not yet begun.

“There’s a lot of people that are really frustrated,” said Adams. “Me, I’m more depressed than anything ‘cause nothing is happening and two years is too long.”

“We have to get things going and people back into their homes,” he said, explaining that many other people from the community are feeling the same way.

A year ago, Lytton was still full of rubble from the fire. The debris has since been cleaned up. But what little remains of the village is still behind construction fences. There are piles of dirt and holes where there used to be houses and businesses.

“Now it’s a standstill down there. There’s nothing going on down there seems like it,” said Buster Adams who lives near Lytton.

He didn’t lose his home in the fire, but feels like he lost his community.

“What we had was so beautiful. We don’t know how much it hurts to see it all gone. There’s nothing here,” he said.

“This emptiness in myself. I’m not the only one that’s feeling it,” he explained, adding that he misses the people.

Lytton Mayor Denise O’Connor told CTV News that the province has committed more than $50 million to Lytton’s recovery, while the federal government has promised $77 million.

But not a single building permit has been issued so far.

“What I think is politics got dumped in this little town,” said Marty McKay, who lived in Lytton until the fire displaced him.

O’Connor, elected to council last year, said she doesn’t fully understand why progress is so slow.

“People have asked, ‘Why does Monte Lake, why do they just get to go rebuild? Why does a building in downtown Vancouver burn down and they get cleaned up and start rebuilding right away?’” she said.

O’Connor said there are two matters slowing things down for Lytton; soil remediation and archeological assessments.

She said the village is still waiting for the completion of the assessments the province requires for each property. Lytton was built on land with significant cultural significance.

Residents will need those assessments in order to get a building permit.

Soil remediation work is also still underway.

“The properties have to be cleared free of contaminants…so there’s testing going on and soil removed from properties. Apparently, some properties have finished that process. Others, it’s still ongoing,” she said, adding that she knows of only one resident who has received information about their property.

“Once archeology and the soil remediation is complete, they still need to come in and backfill,” she said.

Council is reviewing the contracts Lytton has for these services to see if things can be sped up.

In the meantime, Lytton hosted a well-attended building symposium to support displaced families.

Coun. Nonie McCann said the goal was “to connect people in Lytton with resources to rebuild their homes, to find what’s out there, who is available…and primarily to answer questions.”

The big question for many displaced families is simple. When will they be able to rebuild?

“I don’t know the answer, but I would hope this summer,” said O’Connor.

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