Staff Correspondent: The government of British Columbia promised to rebuild Lytton on Thursday, after confirming that the bulk of the village had been burned by a devastating wildfire.
At a briefing on the province’s increasing wildfire crisis, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said, “I have reports that most residences and structures in the community, as well as the ambulance station and the RCMP detachment, have been lost.”
“I’m also aware that several folks have gone missing, and the RCMP is presently investigating their whereabouts.”
At least 1,000 people had been evacuated from Lytton and the surrounding areas, Farnworth said.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said the cause of the fire, which was last mapped at 9,000 hectares, remained under investigation.
“When the smoke in Lytton clears, of course, the province will be there to rebuild,” Horgan said.
“I made that commitment to the mayor today and I make that commitment to those who are in emergency centres around the region.”
Horgan and Farnworth said they had spoken to the federal government about additional support — up to and including the deployment of the military, amid a rapid surge in new wildfires in B.C.
Farnworth said he was not ruling out implementing a new provincial state of emergency, just days after declaring the province’s longest-ever state of emergency, due to COVID-19, was ending.
Horgan said there had been at least 62 new fires in the preceding 24 hours, along with 29,000 lightning strikes.
“I cannot stress enough how extreme the fire risk is at this time,” Horgan said, but added the province was not discouraging travel to the arid Southern Interior.
“I think we can continue to travel, but we need to do what (provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry) has always advised us to do: check before you go, make sure you’re well prepared when you get there, and be mindful of your circumstances.”
Farnworth said that evacuees from Lytton had been widely dispersed, and said emergency reception centers had been set up in Kamloops, Chilliwack, Kelowna, and Merritt, with more on the way.
He advised any evacuee in need of shelter, food, medicine, or prescriptions to seek assistance at one of the centers.
Evacuees were also encouraged to use the province’s online registration facility to register.
For anyone who wants to donate to fire victims, GoFundMe has built an online center of verified fundraising efforts.
Since Wednesday, many other out-of-control wildfires in the Southern Interior have grown rapidly.