Following almost a full week of record-breaking, deadly heat, a community at the epicenter of the worst conditions now has a new tragedy to overcome.
The village of Lytton, located in southern British Columbia, Canada, was the hottest spot in the entire country for three consecutive days. From Sunday, June 27, to Tuesday, June 29, Lytton broke the all-time Canadian high-temperature record, with each day hotter than the last. The heat peaked on Tuesday when the temperature reached 121 F (49.6 C)
If unprecedented heat wasn’t enough of a problem, almost a full week of extremely hot and dry conditions set the stage for another danger: wildfires.
A fire broke out late Wednesday afternoon, local time, in Lytton, and according to eyewitnesses, the village was engulfed in flames within a matter of minutes.
Two people, a couple in their 60s, were reported dead as a result of the fire, according to The Vancouver Sun. According to their son, the couple took shelter in a hole in the ground before they were killed.
While the official evacuation order was signed into effect at 6 p.m. PDT Wednesday by Mayor Jan Polderman, residents had already begun to flee.
“It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,” Polderman told CBC News.
Lytton is home to about 250 residents.
By Wednesday evening, additional communities north of Lytton were also ordered to evacuate as the blaze grew.
The magnitude of the charred devastation became apparent Thursday. A photo obtained by News 1130 in Vancouver showed the devastating aftermath of what was a once-bustling stretch in the town. Brad Vis, a Canadian minister of parliament, said that 90 percent of the town was destroyed in the fire, News 1130 reported.
“The situation is very, very dire. There’s firefighters coming from across the province to assist with the growing fires in the region. The situation is still unfolding,” Vis told News 1130. The fire was reportedly more than 19,700 acres in size (about 8,000 hectares) as of early Thursday.
Anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 people in and around Lytton have been impacted by the fire, Vis told the news outlet.
The fire that engulfed Lytton was only one of more than 70 wildfires still burning across the entire province of British Columbia on Wednesday into Thursday. By Friday morning, the number of active wildfires in British Columbia had jumped to more than 110.
On Thursday night, homes were evacuated in the Kamloops, British Columbia, area due to another wildfire. Fortunately, the evacuation was rescinded as fire crews gained control of the fire. Residents were free to return to their homes.
The fires were caused by numerous lightning strikes in the Kamloops area earlier Thursday evening, according to the City of Kamloops.
“British Columbia Wildfire Service and Kamloops Fire Rescue will remain on site at the top and bottom of the fire,” reported the City of Kamloops. Residents could see “spot fires” throughout the rest of Thursday night.