Wildfire erupts near western Canadian village destroyed in blaze last year

Town of Lytton destroyed by a wildfire

By Nia Williams

(Reuters) -Wildfire crews on Friday battled an out-of-control blaze near the village of Lytton, British Columbia, which last year burned to the ground during a record-breaking heat wave, as western Canada's wildfire season starts to gather pace.

The Nohomin Creek wildfire was discovered on Thursday on the west side of the Fraser River, approximately 1.7 km (1 mile) from Lytton, in the province's southern interior. It is the most significant wildfire in the province so far this year, according to BC Wildfire Service.

By Friday afternoon the fire had grown to 800 hectares (1,977 acres) in size and 80 firefighters, supported by six helicopters, were tackling the flames. Local authorities ordered the owners of 24 properties near the fire to evacuate, while residents of several First Nation reserves have also been told to leave their homes.

Just over year ago Lytton, which sits across the river from the current fire, was destroyed in a blaze that erupted the day after the village recorded Canada's highest-ever temperature.

Tricia Thorpe, a resident who lost her home in last year's wildfire, said the Nohomin Creek blaze was threatening the community on the west side of the river that took in many evacuees last year.

"It's heart-wrenching," Thorpe said. "We were always aware that this could happen again but that it should happen on the west side ... it's surreal. It makes you numb."

Fire activity in Canada's westernmost province has been markedly quieter than last year after a cool, wet spring. So far in 2022 there have been 277 fires in British Columbia and around 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) burned; at the same point last year there were more than 1,000 fires and 140,000 hectares (345,950 acres) burned.

But temperatures are rising and officials expect fire activity to increase throughout the summer.

"Our forecast is showing the weather will continue to get hotter and we expect to see fuels around the province continue to dry out, making them more susceptible to ignition," said provincial wildfire information officer Jean Strong.

(Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)