Forest fire guts small western Canada town after days of record-breaking heat

Smoke rising from fire at McKay Creek is seen from Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada June 30, 2021 in this picture obtained from social media on July 1, 2021. Sid Bones-Scotchman/via REUTERS

(Reuters) -A wildfire that began after three days of record-breaking temperatures has destroyed most of the small western Canadian town of Lytton and damaged a nearby hydro power station, a local politician said on Thursday.

Lytton, in central British Columbia, was evacuated a day earlier. This week it broke Canada’s all-time hottest temperature record three times.

Officials braced for more sizzling weather and the threat of more wildfires from a deadly heat wave that also ravaged the U.S. Northwest with record-high temperatures.

“The town has sustained structural damage and 90% of the village is burned, including the center of the town,” Brad Vis, a Member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said in a Facebook post.

He said the fire also caused extensive damage to BC Hydro stations and highways, limiting access to Lytton by road.

Amateur video footage showed residents scrambling to get out of town in their cars as fires burned down trees and some structures. The fire spread so swiftly that people were forced to leave behind their belongings and pets.

Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman ordered everyone in the town of 250 to vacate late on Wednesday.

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

Residents of another 87 properties north of Lytton were also ordered to leave on Wednesday.

Lytton set a record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.28 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. The previous high in Canada, known for brutally cold winters, was 45 degrees Celsius, set in Saskatchewan in 1937.

On Wednesday, strong winds gusting up to 71 kph (44 mph) were recorded in the area, further flaming the fires.

In British Columbia, at least 486 sudden deaths were reported over five days to Wednesday, nearly three times the usual number that would occur in the province over that period, the B.C. Coroners Service said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas in Toronto; Editing by Howard Goller and David Gregorio)

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