Lytton fire: RCMP to provide update soon on investigation into devastating blaze

VANCOUVER — RCMP have set up three security checkpoints around Lytton, B.C., and they say there will be an update soon on the investigation into the cause of the fast-moving wildfire that destroyed most of the village.

Supt. Ray Carfantan said that in addition to the checkpoints, roving patrols are ensuring crews can gain access to restore services in Lytton, including hydro and phone lines, while people who are not required to be there are kept out.

Carfantan told a news conference Sunday that 911 service is now available and the former non-emergency number for the RCMP has been rerouted to Lillooet, about 60 km northwest of the community.

He said police have followed up on more than 15 missing-person reports since the fire on June 30 killed two people, but everyone from in and around the town in the Fraser Canyon was located and is safe.

“We are aware of the possibility that there could be someone still left unaccounted for, and therefore if you have not been able to find a loved one please call or attend your local or nearest RCMP detachment to report that person as missing.”

Carfantan said police and multiple agencies including the BC Wildfire Service, Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board are gathering information and evidence to try and determine the cause of the fire.

“We are committed to providing a more full update about the investigation in the next day or two,” he said.

Hot and dry conditions are persisting in parts of southern British Columbia while cooler temperatures are helping crews suppress wildfires in the north.

Fire information officer Taylor Colman of the BC Wildfire Service said 67 fires were classified as out of control on Sunday, but crews had not yet been able to evaluate the newest ones.

Colman said 306 fires were burning across B.C., most of them in the Kamloops and Cariboo fire centres.

The Sparks Lake fire, in the Kamloops fire centre, was the largest in the province at 402 square kilometres, but people were not at risk in the rural area.

On Sunday, 132 addresses in the Whitecroft community near Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality were evacuated due to the Embleton Mountain fire which covered about 1.5 square kilometres. The resort community of Sun Peaks was also placed under an evacuation alert and visitors were asked to stay away.

Brandi Schier, a spokeswoman for the municipality’s emergency operations centre, said firefighters from the resort town were helping crews from the BC Wildfire Service battle the blaze.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District, meanwhile, issued an evacuation alert for residents of nearby Heffley Lake, and Schier said that covered 156 addresses.

Schier said only residents were being permitted to enter the popular tourist destination.

“We’re just asking that people put a pause on those plans right while the situation is taken care of,” she said.

BC Wildfire Service information officer Noelle Kekula said crews battling a wildfire near the Okanagan community of Vernon had to deal with drones in the area on Saturday, forcing them to shut down operations for two hours.

“I know everyone’s curious and everyone has drones, but it’s illegal to operate a drone in and around a wildfire,” she said.

“Please keep your drones off our wildfires because it has significant impact to firefighting efforts.”

Colman said so far this season, lightning has sparked 42 per cent of fires while 40 per cent of them have been caused by humans. The rest are still being investigated.

The federal and provincial governments said Sunday they will match every dollar donated to the Canadian Red Cross for people affected by the wildfires, which they said means a $1 donation will become a $3 donation. The matching donations will be retroactive to include those received since July 3, when the Red Cross BC Wildfire Appeal fund began.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2021.

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