New evacuation orders issued in western Canada as fire guts town after record heat

Reuters – July 2, 2021

A forest fire that began after three days of record-breaking temperatures has destroyed most of the small western Canadian town of Lytton, as government officials issued fresh evacuation orders on Thursday as more wildfires tore through the province.

More than 1,000 people in and around Lytton, in central British Columbia, were evacuated late on Wednesday after the fast-moving fire engulfed the community, catching residents by surprise. The cause of the fire was being investigated, B.C Premier John Horgan told reporters.

A couple in their 60s died due to the fire, Post Media reported, quoting their son. Reuters could not independently verify the deaths. B.C. officials told the briefing that some residents were unaccounted for, and said “most homes and structures” in Lytton have been lost.

“The town has sustained structural damage and 90% of the village is burned, including the centre of the town,” Brad Vis, a member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said in a Facebook post.

He said the fire also caused extensive damage to BC Hydro stations and highways, limiting access to Lytton by road.

Horgan said 62 new fires were reported in B.C. in the past 24 hours, forcing authorities to issue new evacuation orders affecting some 700 people in B.C.’s Cariboo region.

The sizzling heat wave also ravaged the U.S. Northwest with record-high temperatures.

Amateur video footage showed residents of Lytton scrambling to leave town in cars as fires burned down trees and some structures.

Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman ordered everyone in the town of 250 to vacate late on Wednesday. Residents of another 87 properties north of Lytton were also ordered to leave on Wednesday.

Lytton set a record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.28 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. The previous high in Canada, known for brutally cold winters, was 45 degrees Celsius, set in Saskatchewan in 1937.

On Wednesday, strong winds gusting up to 71 kph (44 mph) were recorded in the area, flaming the fires.

The province recorded at least 486 sudden deaths over five days to Wednesday, nearly three times the usual number that would occur in the province over that period, the B.C. Coroners Service said on Wednesday.

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