Marley Peterkin called Thursday “the scariest” day of her life.
“I thought for a good while we would lose our homes,” said the resident of Lytton, B.C. Ms. Peterkin lives on a fruit farm two kilometres from Lytton, near the ignition point of the Nohomin Creek wildfire, which began Thursday and quickly increased in size as it prompted evacuation orders and alerts. The fire broke out a little more than a year after another wildfire destroyed most of the town and killed two people during an extreme heat wave last summer.
Shortly after 1 p.m., Ms. Peterkin, who is 26 and works in log home restoration, fled the family farm with her grandparents and pets. Her parents stayed behind to fight the fire.
The B.C. Wildfire Service estimated the fire at 500 hectares by Friday, having more than doubled since the previous evening. As of Friday evening, a wildfire west of Lytton had burned at least half a dozen homes but was not spreading in the direction of the village, officials said. Two dozen properties were under an evacuation order midmorning Friday and another 31 were under an evacuation alert, meaning residents had to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. No cause had been determined.
The Peterkin family managed to save one house and a cabin, which was housing Lyttonites who had lost their home to last year’s fire. The family did, however, lose a guest cabin, two sheds, a fruit cooler, a storage unit, a chicken coop filled with birds, a farm truck and other supplies, including fence posts, cedar lumber and ladders.
The Nohomin Creek fire continues to burn out of control, the wildfire service said, and was displaying what they described as rank three and four behaviour on the service’s six-point scale. This means it was moving at moderate to fast speeds, with some short-range fire spotting caused by flying embers.
The fire was burning on the west side of the Fraser River. There were no closures to Highway 1 or Highway 12, which cross the area.
Dan Mundall is among several Lytton area residents who ignored an evacuation order to help fight the fire, which is currently threatening his farm four kilometres north of Lytton. “The primary wave has gone through, so we’re just dealing with little flareups here and there,” Mr. Mundall said. “We lost a large hay barn as well as a shop on the farm, but thankfully were able to save the houses.”
One year ago, the civil engineer worked around the clock with firefighters and other volunteers to help stop the Lytton Creek wildfire from swallowing neighbouring communities.
Given last summer’s fire, Mr. Mundall said he and his neighbours knew it could happen again. “So we spent a lot of time this spring preparing. We took lessons from what we did last year. We worked with people from the community and the Lytton First Nation to create arrangements, so that when something like this happens, we were able to more quickly respond.”
There could be some relief for firefighters in the next two days. Environment Canada is calling for scattered showers in the Lytton area on Saturday and Sunday, and daytime highs of 28 and 27. On Monday, however, Lytton and the surrounding areas will enter an extended heat wave, with forecasted highs in the mid-to-low thirties all week.
The wildfire season has been considerably less active than last year, with 19 fires burning across the province as of Friday afternoon and just one considered notable for posing a risk to people and buildings. Wildfires have burned up 272 hectares of land in B.C. so far this year, compared with nearly 1,000 hectares at the same point last year and well below the average going back 25 years.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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