Lytton residents push for more involvement, government transparency in rebuilding their town

·3 min read
At least 200 people fled their homes on a moment's notice after fast-moving wildfire tore through the community of Lytton in B.C.'s Fraser Valley. Conditions in the area were dangerously dry and windy after the summer's record-breaking heatwave. (Edith Loring-Kuhanga/Facebook - image credit)
At least 200 people fled their homes on a moment's notice after fast-moving wildfire tore through the community of Lytton in B.C.'s Fraser Valley. Conditions in the area were dangerously dry and windy after the summer's record-breaking heatwave. (Edith Loring-Kuhanga/Facebook - image credit)

A group of Lytton residents who were forced to flee their homes after a fire tore through their town during the summer told their town council Wednesday night that they want to be involved in rebuilding their community.

The council meeting took place on the eve of the Transportation Safety Board's release of a report looking into the possible cause of the fire on June 30.

Jennifer Thoss, who told council she represents 59 Lytton property owners, said she and others would like to see more transparency in the local government's efforts to re-establish the interior community. Thoss, a resident of Delta, B.C., also owns properties that were damaged in the fire.

"I think we're scared that the individuality, the community, the heart of Lytton will be lost. There is all these people working in the village of Lytton that we don't know," she said.

Thoss asked for council meetings to be recorded and posted online, and called for council to consider residents for positions and contracts pertaining to Lytton's reconstruction.

The Transportation Safety Board will be holding a virtual news conference on Thursday after making public a report on the "possible relation between train activities and the fire that destroyed the town of Lytton, B.C."

'A lot of questions and very little answers'

Concerns were also raised during the meeting about how much progress has been made as Wednesday marked 105 days since the fire destroyed Lytton's buildings and infrastructure.

Bethany Lindsay/CBC News
Bethany Lindsay/CBC News

Edith Loring-Kuhanga, school administrator at Stein Valley Nlakapamux School in Lytton, told council that some of the residents whose homes burned down are elders, and that she wants to see recovery efforts move faster.

"I worry about our elders, our seniors who continue to be displaced and homeless," said Loring-Kuhanga.

She said residents want more communication about what is being done to help them.

"There appears to be a little action on the ground as the residents, we have a lot of questions and very little answers. First, I want to raise the issue of interim housing. Winter is quickly approaching. Where is that on the council and recovery managers agenda?" she asked.

Mike Simpson, senior regional manager at Fraser Basin Council, provided an overview of the work being done in the aftermath of the fire and the services the community will need as it recovers.

He said efforts are underway as winter approaches to have temporary housing in place, as well as basic services such as a grocery store, medical facilities, an RCMP detachment and garbage collection services.

Simpson said he recognizes that people are frustrated about not receiving information about what kind of progress is being made.

"We do have some things planned in the works around community and town halls that we're working with mayor and council on staff to to be able to host and support them," said Simpson.

He said town hall-style meetings for residents are being planned for as early as the end of October.

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