By Mary Gilbert, AccuWeather meteorologist
Updated Jul. 2, 2021 1:32 PM PDTCopiedhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.470.1_en.html#goog_676015520https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.470.1_en.html#goog_1344689718about:blank00:00 of 00:31Volume 0%
Residents of Lytton, British Columbia, raced to flee the town as a wildfire quickly approached the community, forcing a full evacuation order to be issued.
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.
Satellite imagery shows smoke from wildfires across southern British Columbia, Canada, triggering pyrocumulus clouds on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (NOAA/CIRA)
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.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Faccuweather&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3R3ZWV0X2VtYmVkX2NsaWNrYWJpbGl0eV8xMjEwMiI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJjb250cm9sIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1410649007748124679&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.accuweather.com%2Fen%2Fweather-news%2Flytton-whole-town-on-fire-after-record-high-temperature%2F972596&sessionId=4b7a5586c60bdb4d77511f6eac9e449e4884fe09&siteScreenName=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Faccuweather&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=500px
“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.
Several roads were closed due to the fires, including large portions of highway 97. Dwayne McDonald, Commanding Officer of the British Columbia Royal Canadian Mounted Police, asked that residents “Please respect the closures,” as closed areas can be dangerous to enter.
This most recent stretch of hot, dry weather left places like Lytton and Kamloops primed for fire risk. The lack of moisture and abundance of dry fuels, like grass, created conditions under which it was very easy for wildfires to start and spread quickly.
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This most recent heat wave was, and continues to be, one of the worst ever experienced by southwestern Canada and the northwestern United States. The heat wave was also quick to turn deadly for British Columbia, with several hundred deaths already reported.
Smoke rises from a wildfire at Long Loch and Derrickson Lake in Central Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, June 30, 2021 in this photo obtained from social media. (BC Wildfire Service via REUTERS)(BC Wildfire Service via REUTERS)
Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia’s chief coroner, said 486 reports of “sudden and unexpected” deaths came in between last Friday and this Wednesday, which is well ahead of the 165 deaths the province normally sees in five days, The Associated Press reported.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), British Columbia has broken 43 all-time temperature records as of June 28.https://playlist.megaphone.fm/?e=ADL8174500765
AccuWeather forecasters say that while the worst of the heat has already occurred, temperatures will still remain well above average through early next week.
The last image from the webcam at the Lytton Airport June 30, 2021, shows the approaching fire that later engulfed the town.Gov
“With high temperatures likely topping out in the 90s F (~32-34 C) through early next week, this will make for uncomfortable conditions for firefighters,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins said.
In terms of containment efforts through the end of the week, AccuWeather forecasters say there are at least two positive weather trends.
“Fortunately, winds are not expected to be all that strong, and relative humidity has come up some,” Adkins explained.
The lack of strong winds should give firefighting crews across southern British Columbia an advantage against ongoing blazes. Weaker winds will prevent rapid fire spread and may keep embers from blowing longer distances and starting new fires.
“Rain chances may increase some heading into the weekend, but any thunderstorms that do develop are likely to be isolated in nature, so it’s far from a guarantee that needed rain will arrive,” Adkins cautioned. “In fact, should lightning occur with minimal rainfall, it could spark renewed blazes in areas not yet burned.”
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