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Fire razed Lytton, B.C., will be a community of the future: Premier Horgan

LYTTON, B.C. — British Columbia Premier John Horgan and two of his cabinet ministers were flown over the devastated community of Lytton Tuesday where he said there was "literally nothing left" after a wildfire tore through it last Wednesday.
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LYTTON, B.C. — British Columbia Premier John Horgan and two of his cabinet ministers were flown over the devastated community of Lytton Tuesday where he said there was "literally nothing left" after a wildfire tore through it last Wednesday. 

Horgan told a news conference after the flyover that "it was quite moving," seeing the damage done to the village firsthand.

"There was hope on the west side of the river ... but the townsite is virtually gone," he said. 

Horgan said that Lytton's rebuild can be a case study for North America on building a community for the future.

The heat warnings remain up for several communities and Horgan cautioned that the province is prepared for more destructive fires this season. 

"It's the first week in July. We have a long summer ahead of us and we're not under any illusion that the crisis has passed," he said.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told the same news conference that the government won't declare a state of emergency over the wildfires burning across the province until they are advised to by the BC Wildfire Service. 

The province declared a state of emergency in 2017 and 2018 when record-breaking fires covered the province. 

"(BC Wildfire Service's) expertise is what decides when it is time to put in place a provincial state of emergency, and they provide that advice, regardless of which party or government is in power," he said. "When they tell me that it's now time to move to that provincial state of emergency, that is when we do it."

Kamloops Fire Centre manager Kaitlin Baskerville said Tuesday that the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, where Lytton is located, is seeing three to five fires start per day. The fire starts are now typically one to three hectares in size, a decline from the 30-hectare starts seen during the so-called "heat dome," she said.

Smoke is also lifting across the region, creating better visibility for firefighters.

Out-of-province firefighters are expected to arrive in the Lytton area Wednesday following COVID-19 screening to help knock down the blaze that has stabilized over the last 24 to 36 hours.

Flames that destroyed most of the Fraser Canyon village last week have charred 77 square kilometres of bush, while the wildfire service said the blaze near Sparks Lake, north of Kamloops, has burned 392 square kilometres.

More than 200 wildfires are burning in B.C. 

A dangerous heat wave continues to bring sweltering temperatures and little nighttime cooling to several areas, including the Fraser Canyon and Thompson regions.

Evacuation orders covering hundreds of properties remain in place for both areas.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District said in a statement Tuesday a tour of the devastated village by evacuated residents has been scheduled for Friday.

"While the area is still not safe for unescorted entry, work has been done to clear a way to permit taking residents through the area by bus," the statement said. 

The district is also planning to either feed or rescue the animals that remain within the evacuated areas of Lytton. 

Those who had to leave their animals behind were asked to contact the district with information on location and care. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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