Wildfires destroyed 90 percent of a town in Canada just days after it recorded the country’s hottest temperature ever – 121 degrees Fahrenheit – amid a devastating heat wave ravaging the Pacific Northwest.
Roughly 1,000 people living in and around Lytton, British Columbia, fled from their homes on Wednesday as flames fueled by soaring temperatures ripped through the area, engulfing the town in a matter of minutes.
The extent of the damage was revealed on Thursday as authorities said ‘most homes’ and structures were razed.
Officials said it could take days for the region to be deemed safe enough for first responders to begin searching the wreckage for possible fatalities.
BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is working to locate an unspecified number of residents who are unaccounted for.
Scott Hildebrand, chief administrative officer with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said dozens of families who evacuated when the fire swept in are now desperately searching for their loved ones.
‘We are receiving calls from people looking for family and loved ones as well, and it’s really hard because of power outages and cellphone towers being down, but we’re working on that,’ Hildebrand told CBC News.
Wildfires destroyed 90 percent of Lytton, British Columbia, just days after it recorded Canada’s hottest temperature ever – 121 degrees Fahrenheit – amid a devastating heat wave ravaging the Pacific Northwest
The extent of the damage in Lytton was revealed on Thursday as authorities said ‘most homes’ and structures were razed
Roughly 1,000 people living in and around Lytton fled from their homes on Wednesday as flames fueled by soaring temperatures ripped through the area, engulfing the town in a matter of minutes
Officials said it could take days for the region to be deemed safe enough for first responders to begin searching the wreckage for possible fatalities
Dozens of families who fled when the fire swept in are now desperately searching for their loved ones. Pictured: Resident Martha Van Dyke stands outside her car on Thursday after evacuating
Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman, who ordered the village of less than 300 people to evacuate Wednesday, said it took 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to ‘all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere’.
‘It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,’ Polderman told CBC.
‘At the First Nation band office, the fire was a wall about three, four feet high coming up to the fence line. I drove through town and it was just smoke, flames, the wires were down.’
There’s been no official report on fatalities connected to the Lytton fires, but Polderman told CityNews1130 ‘it would be a miracle if everyone made it out alive.’
‘There were all sorts of houses on fire. People were frantic to get out,’ he said.
Edith Loring Kuhanga, a school administrator of the Stein Valley Nlakapamux School on First Nations land directly north of Lytton posted a picture of the fires and smoke to Facebook late Wednesday.
‘Our poor little town of Lytton is gone,’ she said. ‘This is so devastating. We are all in shock! Our community members have lost everything.’
Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman, who ordered the village of less than 300 people to evacuate Wednesday, said it took 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to ‘all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere’
Out-of-control forest fires decimated the small British Columbia village of Lytton in Canada following three consecutive days of record-breaking heat
The village of Lytton – which has a population of 300 – was ordered to evacuate by mayor Jan Polderman at 6pm PST Wednesday. He said the situation caused by the fire was ‘dire’
Smoke from wildfires in the Sparks Lake area of British Columbia rise into the sky
Lytton in British Columbia was consumed by flames on Wednesday evening – one day after experiencing the hottest weather ever recorded in Canada -121F
The sweltering temperatures are being caused by a heat dome of static high-pressure hot air which traps the heat in one location
British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ between Friday and Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the Canadian province over a five-day period
But officials fear the multi-day heatwave may have caused around 500 deaths across the US and Canada.
British Columbia’s Chief Coroner, Lisa LaPointe, said her office received reports of 486 ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ between Friday and Wednesday.
She told AP that around 165 people would normally die in the province over a five day period – raising the specter of 321 deaths caused by the heat.
Vancouver Police Sergeant Steve Addison, whose city also sits within the same province, added: ‘Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it.’
As the village of Lytton and the rest of British Columbia try to come to grips with the devastation of their homes and loss of life, B.C. Premier John Horgan offered little relief; instead choosing to blame the victims.
‘Fatalities are a part of life,’ Horgan said on Tuesday. ‘It was apparent to anyone who walked outdoors that we were in an unprecedented heatwave and there’s a level of personal responsibility.’
The ‘heat dome’ responsible for the unprecedented weather in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest region of the US settled over British Columbia.
The phenomenon is caused by a high-pressure jet stream, which essentially acts like a lid to a boiling pot.
The heat dome has baked Lytton and the surrounding areas and created the country’s hottest temperatures ever three consecutive days starting with 115F on Monday, 118F on Tuesday and 121F on Wednesday.
Temperatures are expected to drop below triple digits starting Thursday, according to AccuWeather, and hover in the 90s for the rest of the week.
While cooler than the unprecedented temperatures, the 90-plus degree heat far exceeds the usual 60F to 70F weather normally seen in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia at this time of year.
Lytton and the surrounding area remained on fire Thursday, with 101 active fires in British Columbia, according to the BC Wildfire dashboard, with 58.8 percent of the fires suspected to be caused by lightning.
Of the current 101 fires, 58 are classified as ‘new’ and 18 are ‘out of control,’ according to the BC Wildfire dashboard.
Smoke is rising from wildfires at Long Loch and Derrickson Lake in Central Okanagan, British Columbia
Around 20 buildings have so far been destroyed by the blaze. It is unclear if anyone was injured
The wild temperatures are stretching from the US west coast up to Canada where records have now been broken for three days in a row
The nearby city of Merritt opened a reception center for Lytton evacuees, city officials said on Twitter Wednesday night.
British Columbia has been hit by two separate wildfires – a 15 square mile blaze near Kamloops Lake, which has forced the evacuation of 160 homes.
And a 20-square-mile fire is burning in Lillooet, with four helicopters drafted in to help battle that blaze.
Cities in the US also saw record-breaking weather – including Portland, where the mercury hit 116F.
That is hotter than any temperature ever recorded in well-know American hotspots including Los Angeles, Dallas and New Orleans.
Oregon and Washington, including Seattle, which saw 108F weather, have now begun to cool down.
Smoke rises from a wildfire in McKinley Lake, British Columbia
Mayor Jan Polderman says he told everyone to leave Lytton, a community of some 250 people, as the situation rapidly deteriorated
The ‘heat dome’ that’s wrecking havoc in the British Columbia is directly related to dozens of deaths in the US and causing wildfires to rage in California.
The largest of the fires, the lightning-sparked Lava fire in Siskiyou County in northern California, forced the evacuation of at least 8,000 residents Monday afternoon and expanded to almost 20,000 acres by Thursday, according to the interactive California wildfires map.
Only 19 percent of that fire is contained, according to the map.
The region’s death toll continues to climb. Oregon has tied 79 deaths to the heat, with another 20 suspected fatalities recorded in Washington.
‘This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people,’ Dr. Jennifer Vines, the Multnomah County, Oregon, health officer said in a statement. ‘I know many county residents were looking out for each other and am deeply saddened by this initial death toll.’
King County Medical Office, which includes Seattle, reported Wednesday that 13 people had died of heat-related causes, including three men, aged 51, 75, and 77, who had been killed by heat stroke.
Extreme heat is particularly dangerous for the elderly and vulnerable. Most homes in the Pacific Northwest do not have air conditioning, because the region is so unused to such hot weather.
Meteorologists say the heat wave was a once in a millennium event.
It was caused by a wide, deep mass of high pressure air that parked itself over the Pacific North West because of a wavy jet stream.
That high pressure area acted like a lid – or heat dome – trapping hot air inside, so temperatures get higher and higher.
The phenomenon has seen air conditioners sell out, triggered rolling blackouts in Spokane, Washington – and left locals praying for rain.
CANADA: A Salvation Army EMS vehicle is setup as a cooling station as people lineup to get into a splash park while trying to beat the heat in Calgary, Alberta, on Wednesday
OREGON: Salem Fire Department paramedics and employees of Falck Northwest ambulance service respond to a heat exposure call during a heat wave
WASHINGTON: Katherine Milton, who is experiencing homelessness, cools off under a homemade cooling-off station and mist system that a neighbor set up in their front yard for people, especially those without homes, to use during the scorching weather of a heatwave in Seattle
OREGON: People rest at the Oregon Convention Center cooling station in Portland amid this week’s devastating heat wave