LILLOOET, British Columbia – A fire that forced people to flee a small town in British Columbia that set record high temperatures for Canada three times in a row burned out of control on Thursday as relatives desperately sought information about evacuees.
Approximately 1,000 Lytton residents had to leave their homes just minutes ahead Wednesday night after steaming under a record 49.2 C (49.6 C) the previous day.
Provincial Secretary of Public Security Mike Farnworth said Thursday afternoon that most homes and buildings in Lytton had been destroyed and for some residents there was no data.
The British Fire Service in British Columbia said the Lytton flames raged out of control on an area of about 80 square kilometers. Several other fires were burning in the region as the heat wave scorched western Canada.
Lytton City Council member Lilliane Graie, on behalf of Mayor Jan Polderman, said in an email Thursday that the fire destroyed the city, a village about 153 kilometers (95 miles) northeast of Vancouver.
“Our people are scattered north and south, and we are trying to determine who is where,” she wrote.
At least some of the people who fled Lytton came to a recreation center in Lillooet, a town about 63 miles (40 miles) north.
John Haugen, deputy chief of Lytton First Nation, said leaders are trying to consider members who have not arrived in Lillooet.
“It’s incomprehensible, people are so worried and worried about what’s coming for them,” he said, saying the community has suffered a huge “devastation and loss”.
Rosanna Stamberg, who lives in Enderby, said she was trying to find son and daughter Alfred and Marjorie Nelson, who live about 8 miles from downtown Lytton.
“I do not know in which direction they went. I don’t know if they went down to Chilliwack. I don’t know if they went to Lillooet. I don’t know if they went to Spencer Bridge or Merritt or Kamloops. I have no idea, “she said in a telephone interview. “Or if they stayed home.”
She said the lack of a mobile phone service prevented her from contacting them. “I’m very worried,” she said.
In a televised address, British Columbia Prime Minister John Horgan said: “For three weeks in a row the highest recorded temperature in Canadian history occurred this week in Lytton. Having heat and a horrific fire is so disturbing and challenging for the people of this community.”
The heat in Lytton set its first national record on Sunday, reaching 115 F (45.1 C) and then set another new high on Monday, at 118.2 F (47.9 C). After another record high Tuesday, the heat dropped to 102 degrees F (39 C) on Wednesday.
Officials said 62 new fires and 29,000 lightning strikes had been recorded in the previous 24 hours. The fire near Lyton increased to about 22,000 acres (9,000 acres).
Horgan, the prime minister, said he had heard “anti-Otro information” that the train might have started the fire, but that it was too early to tell.
“Lytton was destroyed and it will take a tremendous amount of effort to get that historic location back to what it was,” he said.
Edith Loring-Kuhanga, an administrator at Stein Valley School Nlakapamux, said she and fellow board members had to interrupt Zoom’s interview with a potential teacher while a fire burned their block.
She said that at first she did not pay attention to the siren that was going out outside, but then a school board member called her and told her to run away.
‘He said,‘ I’m here by the fire and you have to go, grab everything you can, ’Loring-Kuhanga recalled.
The wrecks were large, she said.
“It was amazing. It was just a nightmare, ”she said. “So many community members lost everything, they just didn’t have the time.”
About 15 miles (10 miles) south of Lyton, at the First Nations community at the kanaka bar, Jean McKay said she and her 22-year-old daughter Deirdre McKay began to panic as the smell of smoke grew stronger.
“I was still sitting there wondering what to pack, feeling my way out the door but thinking, ‘I’m leaving all this behind.’ It is hard. Very difficult, ”McKay said. “My daughter phoned before we lost services and stuff, she tells us, ‘Get out of there, get out of there.'”
There was one memory her daughter couldn’t leave behind: “She grabbed a picture of my father from the wall,” McKay said. I tell her, ‘We’re going out and this is a home we built forever and where you grew up.’ It’s rude. “