‘Whole town is on fire’: Canadian village evacuated as flames consume homes and cars after record 49.6C temperature (VIDEOS)
On Wednesday evening, Mayor of Lytton Jan Polderman issued an evacuation order after a high of 49.6C (121.1F) was registered there on Tuesday – a new record for Canada.
“It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,” Polderman told CBC News after asking all residents to move to a “safe location.”
“It took, like, a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to, all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere,” he added.
Dramatic footage from Lytton, a community of around 250 people, showed the fire tearing through homes, cars, and what appeared to be a shop.
The flames also engulfed woodland areas, sending large plumes of black smoke into the air, severely reducing visibility on nearby roads.
Lytton, situated about 260km (162 miles) northeast of Vancouver, also experienced record temperatures for Canada on Sunday and Monday.
On Wednesday evening, winds of up to 71km/h (44mph) pushed a nearby blaze into the village, according to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.
Over 100 die suddenly in Vancouver area in 4 days, police say, as heat wave batters Western CanadaStarting on Sunday, Canada, and some areas of the US, including Portland, have been blasted by a heatwave.
Hundreds of people have died amid the rising temperatures, including in British Columbia, which has registered 486 deaths in the past five days, compared to its usual 165 fatalities at this time of year.
The province’s wildfire service said it had responded to the blaze in Lytton and confirmed on Thursday that there were four general clusters of multiple wildfires across British Columbia.
“Ground crews, helicopters, air tankers, members from volunteer fire departments, and heavy equipment have responded and will continue to do so over the coming days,” it said in a statement.
Before the scenes in Lytton, at least three major wildfires were burning in British Columbia, with 26 blazes having started between Tuesday and Wednesday alone.
Farnworth said the people had gone to several communities to the north, south and east and that all evacuees were being traced. These communities include Lillooet, Ashcroft, Spences Bridge, 100 Mile House, Kamloops, Chilliwack, Kelowna and Merritt.
There are no reports of fatalities at the moment and the RCMP and Red Cross were working to ensure everyone is accounted for.
All evacuees are asled to register online at ess.gov.bc.ca, or call the Emergency Operations Centre phone at 250-377-7188 or 1-866-377-7188 or email email@example.com.
Farnworth said most buildings were destroyed, including the RCMP and ambulance detachments.
Mayor Jan Polderman ordered all residents to evacuate immediately due to a “fire event” within the village at around 6 p.m. on Wednesday. This came a day after the village posted a Canadian record 49.6ºC as a heat wave gripped the province.
The order stated “because of the potential danger to life and safety, the Village of Lytton has issued an evacuation order for all properties” in the downtown and surrounding areas.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says the Lytton fire is roughly 80 square kilometres in size and classified as “out of control.”
Video from Wednesday’s evacuation shows people fleeing in vehicles as dense smoke blankets the main road and wild winds shake the trees. There were several buildings on fire — including residences and businesses — as well as vehicles, including RVs.
Hotel rooms around the area were already booked by people seeking relief from the heat wave and by those getting away for Canada Day as most COVID-19 restrictions in the province were lifted, as well as by crews working on a pipeline project, Hildebrand said.
Loved ones can’t connect with each other
Rosanna Stamberg is looking for her son and daughter, Alfred and Marjorie Nelson, who live about eight kilometres from the centre of town in Lytton.
“I don’t know which direction they went. I don’t know if they went down towards Chilliwack. I don’t know if they went to Lillooet. I don’t know if they went to Spencer’s Bridge or Merritt or Kamloops. I have no idea,” she said in an interview from her home in Enderby. “Or if they stayed home.”
A spokeswoman for BC Hydro, which services about 600 customers in the area, said the Crown corporation doesn’t yet know how its equipment was affected.
“We know obviously there is damage but I have no idea what the extent to it is and we won’t know until we’ve got the OK from fire crews to go in, and that might take a few days,” Mora Scott said.
“We don’t understand exactly where everybody went.”
John Haugen, a deputy chief with the Lytton First Nation, says there has been a lot of “devastation and loss.”
He says the nation, which has evacuated people to a recreational centre in Lillooet, is still trying to account for all of its members.
He says part of the issue is a lack of cell service in the community, as well as people being forced to leave with little time to prepare.
Hildebrand said a reception centre has been set up in Kamloops but some people may have gone to Boston Bar or Merritt.
“That direction was the safest, I think. That’s part of our struggle now, is that we don’t have people registered and we don’t understand exactly where everybody went.”
An emergency reception centre has been established in Merritt, which is about 100 kilometres southeast of Lytton, and around 50 evacuees had registered there by Thursday morning. The city says it can also accomodate livestock from Lytton.
Lytton smashed the national heat record on Tuesday, recording 49.6ºC as a wildfire burned near.
Jo-Anne Beharrell and Marshall Potts were ordered from their home on Tuesday, a day before the latest evacuation alert.
They first spotted a wildfire around 5 p.m. on Monday from their kitchen window when it was about 1.5 kilometres from their front yard.
“It looked like, you know, a small brush fire, but we knew there was a problem,” Potts said in an interview Wednesday evening from Pinantan Lake, just outside Kamloops, where the couple are staying with family.
“The smoke is in various colours. … It definitely feels dystopian, that’s for sure. It definitely feels apocalyptic.”
Highway 1 is closed between Boston Bar and Spences Bridge, and Highway 12 has been shutdown to southbound traffic between Lillooet and Lytton.
“We are all in shock”
Edith Loring-Kuhanga, an administrator at the Stein Valley Nlakapamux School, says she and fellow staff members were forced to end a Zoom interview with a prospective teacher as the fire burned down their block.
The Lillooet First Nation established a muster station at the school, only to be told to leave for Lillooet once it was set up, she added.
“This is so devastating – we are all in shock,” Loring-Kuhanga wrote in a Facebook post. “Our community members have lost everything. I understand our Band office is also gone.”
Jean McKay said she smelled smoke at her home in the First Nations community of Kanaka Bar, home to about 100 people and approximately 15 kilometres from Lytton.
McKay said her 22-year-old daughter, Deirdre McKay, started to panic as the smell of smoke grew stronger.
The first major wildfire of the season was reported two weeks ago seven kilometres south of Lytton alongside Highway 1 at George Road, and while managed over the course of several days using helicopters and ground crews it re-erupted and is now classified as out of control.
Dozens of wildfires have erupted over the past four days in British Columbia amid the most extreme heat wave ever experienced in Canada and intense heat rising from the surface created a towering pyrocumulus, a mushroom-shaped cloud that can generate dry lightning, over the Lytton area.
U.S.-based meteorologist Chris Vagasky tweeted that more than 3,800 lightning events were detected.
“Just truly extreme fire behavior in British Columbia today,” Vagasky said
The B.C. Wildfire Service says of the 82 active fires in the province, 58 have ignited within the last two days. Lightning is the suspected cause of more than 52 per cent of the active fires, while humans are believed to have started a further 13 per cent.
Horgan said 62 new fires had been reported over the past 24 hours and that there had been 29,000 lighting strikes in that time.
The suspected cause of the remaining 34 per cent of active wildfires is unknown.
The fire risk across most of the province is rated at high to extreme.
More to come ….
— with files from Canadian Press, Reuters and the Washington Post
30 June, 2021
Land temperature in the Arctic Circle has reached peaks of 48C during a “persistent heatwave” in Siberia.
The European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said land surface temperature “widely exceeded” 35C across the Russian region on the first day of summer.
Siberia has been hit by wildfires and hotter than usual temperatures in recent years.
Scientists found the heatwave experienced by the far northeastern region last year would have “effectively impossible” without the man-made climate crisis.
It appears parts of Siberia in the Arctic Circle are once again recording record-breaking temperatures this year.
Saskylakh, an Arctic town, recorded 31.9C on 20 June, according to the EU’s Copernicus programme, who said it was the small community’s hottest temperature since 1936 before the summer solstice.
Copernicus said Siberia – and especially its Republic of Sakha – was experiencing a “persistent heatwave” at the moment.
The EU programme’s satellelites found land surface temperatures – different from air temperatures – widely surpassed 35C across Siberia on 20 June, with peaks at 48°C near the town of Verkhojansk, 43°C in Govorovo and 37°C in Saskylah.
Last month, scientists called the heatwave gripping the Arctic “mindboggling” as temperature records in Siberia were once again broken.
Temperatures rose above 30C in areas of the Arctic in May, which is much higher than the average for the time of year.
Rising temperatures are causing ice and permafrost to melt, which causes previously trapped methane to be released into the atmosphere – which contributes to global warming.
Towards the end of last year, there was a record-breaking delay in Arctic sea ice freezing.