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Lytton, B.C., to end state of emergency almost 2 years after most of village was destroyed by wildfire

Council in Lytton, B.C., has voted to stop renewing a state of local emergency that began on June 30, 2021, when a wildfire almost completely destroyed the village.

Council vote means end of evacuation order and residents can return to properties

A chimney and foundation from what was once a home are all that is left after a wildfire tore through the town of Lytton, B.C.

Council in Lytton, B.C., has voted to stop renewing a state of local emergency that began on June 30, 2021, when a wildfire almost completely destroyed the village.

The end of the local emergency, which is due to come into effect Monday, June 19, effectively means residents can return to their properties and rebuilding work can accelerate.

About 250 people once had homes in Lytton, while Lytton First Nation has 56 reserves in and around the village, around 150 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

Residents in those communities lost everything when a wildfire tore through the village following record-breaking heat in the early summer of 2021. Homes and businesses were burned to their foundations and two people died.

A report to Lytton's council this week said that the state of local emergency (SOLE) was put in place for "safety, protection of property and to allow remediation works to be undertaken."

The report said the SOLE had been renewed weekly since June 2021 to allow workers and crews to access privately owned properties under B.C.'s Emergency Program Act, but it was no longer needed.

"The SOLE was deemed necessary by the [Village of Lytton] due to the extensive remediation and archaeological work that was taking place over the last 18 months," reads the report.

"The shift of focus from recovery to rebuild means the SOLE is no longer necessary."

On Wednesday evening, Mayor Denise O'Connor and Lytton's four councillors voted unanimously to stop renewing the SOLE, which will now end on Monday.

"I want to thank staff and Mayor O'Connor for working on this. This is such a great milestone," said Coun. Jennifer Thoss at the meeting.

Residents no longer restricted from properties

Staff said Wednesday night that removing the SOLE will rescind an evacuation order for the community.

"This opens up access for property owners to make plans to attend to their property, where feasible, and begin to plan their rebuild," said the report to council.

The village said it will post notices over the cancellation of the SOLE on its website and at a village office that was set up in nearby Boston Bar along with other locations.

Many residents have voiced their frustrations over the slow pace of recovery in Lytton.

A year ago, the federal government announced it would spend $77 million to help rebuild the village in a way that could better withstand fires, with the majority of the money going to new, fire-resistant public buildings like community centres and libraries.

The provincial government has committed more than $49 million to the rebuild.

"We know that for people waiting to get back to their properties and to rebuild their homes and lives, the recovery process can't move fast enough," said a provincial release marking the one-year anniversary of the fire in June 2022.

"We will not stop working until everyone can see the pathway to returning home."


Chad Pawson is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. You can contact him at chad.pawson@cbc.ca.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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