The City Council in Lytton, BC, has voted to stop extending the local state of emergency that began on June 30, 2021, when a wildfire almost completely destroyed the village.
The end of the local emergency, which takes effect on Monday, June 19, effectively means residents can return to their properties and reconstruction work can be accelerated.
About 250 people once owned homes in Lytton, while Lytton First Nation has 56 reservations in and around the village, about 150 kilometers northeast of Vancouver.
Residents of those communities lost everything when a wildfire swept through the village following record-breaking heat in the early summer of 2021. Homes and businesses burned to the ground and two people were killed.
A report told Lytton City Council this week that a state of emergency (SOLE) was in place for “safety, property protection and to allow recovery work”.
The report said the SOLE had been extended weekly since June 2021 to allow workers and crews access to private property under BC’s emergency program law, but was no longer required.
“The SOLE was deemed necessary by the (village of Lytton) due to the extensive remediation and archaeological work that has taken place over the past 18 months,” the report reads.
“The shift in focus from recovery to rebuilding means the SOLE is no longer needed.”
on Wednesday night, Mayor Denise O’Connor and the four Lytton councilors voted unanimously to stop extending the SOLE, which now expires on Monday.
“I want to thank the staff and Mayor O’Connor for their work on this. This is such an amazing milestone,” said Coun. Jennifer Thoss at the meeting.
Residents no longer restricted from property
The staff said Wednesday evening that removing the SOLE will withdraw a community evacuation order.
“This opens up access for property owners to make plans to attend their property where possible and begin planning their rebuilding,” the report to the council said.
The village said it will post notices about the cancellation of the SOLE on its website and in a village office set up at the nearby Boston Bar, along with other locations.
Many residents have expressed frustration with the slow recovery in Lytton.
A year ago, the federal government announced it would spend $77 million to help rebuild the village in a fire-resistant way, with most of the money going to new, fire-resistant public buildings such as community centers and libraries.
The provincial government has pledged more than $49 million for reconstruction.
“We know that for people waiting to return to their properties and rebuild their homes and lives, the recovery process cannot come fast enough,” he said. a provincial publication on the occasion of the fire’s one-year anniversary in June 2022.
“We will not stop working until everyone can see their way home.”