B.C. Premier John Horgan said Tuesday it was “moving” to see the devastated town of Lytton from the air, and to meet with people who have lost their homes and are continuing to fight forest fires in the B.C. Interior.
“Despite their personal loss, they remained stoic and continued with the task at hand,” Horgan said from Kamloops after a tour of the region July 6.
At the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and both CN and CP Rail lines, Lytton has a history of fires, including one in 2015 that eventually cost CN Rail more than $16 million in fines and damage repair. The investigation continues into how the June 30 fire swept through the town so quickly that people had to flee a community in flames in only 15 minutes.
“I think Lytton can be a case study for the future in how to build for resilience,” Horgan said.
In June, the province added $20 million to its community resilience fund, which has assisted 116 B.C. communities with wildfire risk reduction work since 2018, when it was set up in response to back-to-back record forest fire seasons.
B.C.’s fire risk soared with a record heat wave at the end of June that coincided with the province lifting more of its COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said there are 2,700 people fighting B.C. wildfires, and 175 aircraft and helicopters. A group from New Brunswick has joined the effort as part of the interprovincial support agreement for fire seasons.
B.C. Wildfire Service reported more than 200 fires burning in B.C., with 44 new starts identified on July 5, 24 of them suspected human-caused. There are five major fires being fought in the Cariboo fire region, five in the Kamloops region and three in the Prince George region, with hundreds of firefighters and dozens of aircraft and heavy equipment on the job.