‘The whole town is on fire’: Apocalyptic scenes in Canadian town after heatwave sparks wildfire

·3-min read
The town of Lytton in British Columbia was forced to evacuate as wildfires engulfed buildings (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)
The town of Lytton in British Columbia was forced to evacuate as wildfires engulfed buildings (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)

Apocalyptic footage taken of the Canadian village of Lytton shows buildings and trees up in flames following an intense heatwave that overtook areas of the Pacific Northwest.

The town in Canada’s British Columbia province was evacuated after a wildfire engulfed several of the area’s main buildings amid record-breaking temperatures hitting as high as 49.5C.

In one video, smoke clouds the entire sky as the cameraperson flees the now-uninhabited town.

The nearly 250 residents of Lytton were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday after several wildfires rapidly deteriorated and impacted the safety of those living there.

“A fire event located within the Village of Lytton is threatening structures and the safety of residents,” the order read. “All residents are advised to leave the community and go to a safe location.”

“It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,” Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC News. “It took, like, a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to, all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere.”

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How the fire reached the village is unclear but the incident follows days of dry conditions and extreme heat that broke Canadian temperature records. A day ago, Lytton set a new all-time Canadian heat record for the third day in a row.

According to Environment Canada, Lytton recorded temperatures in excess of 49C on Tuesday afternoon, after reaching 47.5C on Monday and 46.6 C Sunday.

Mr Polderman said people have been asked to reach the community centre of Boston Bar, and he was on his way there himself.

“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,” Mr Polderman said.

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Social media posts from the area show many buildings in the village already engulfed in flames. Firefighters have been dealing with these incidents in the village and no loss of life has been reported so far.

“I’ve never seen wildfire conditions this extreme,” CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said. “We’re going to see conditions like this for the rest of the week, unfortunately.”

A town in the Canadian province of British Columbia is evacuated after wildfires engulf the area (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)
A town in the Canadian province of British Columbia is evacuated after wildfires engulf the area (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)
Smoke clouded the air in Lytton, which was evacuated on Wednesday due to wildfires (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)
Smoke clouded the air in Lytton, which was evacuated on Wednesday due to wildfires (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)
Residents were told to evacuate the town of Lytton on Wednesday evening. The town broke several temperature records in the days prior (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)
Residents were told to evacuate the town of Lytton on Wednesday evening. The town broke several temperature records in the days prior (2 Rivers Remix Society/Vimeo)

Mr Polderman told local news outlets that it “took about 15 minutes” for the wildfires to engulf the entire town after the evacuation order was issued at 6pm local time on Wednesday.

Intense heat has already killed dozens, possibly hundreds, of people across Canada.

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the province received reports of at least 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” between Friday and Wednesday. This compared to an average of 165 deaths typically seen during the same timeframe.

“While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related, it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather,” Ms LaPointe said.

Canadian officials described what was currently happening as a “true health crisis”.

“This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines in a statement. “As our summers continue to get warmer, I suspect we will face this kind of event again.”

Officials in Oregon and Washington have also reported dozens of deaths in the heatwave that swept across the Pacific Northwest.

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