Was Lytton the canary in the coal mine?
A new documentary was released Thursday about the devastating June 30, 2021 wildfire that razed the village two summers ago. It was produced by BC-base Wallop Film, with financial backing from the the Guardian.
So why was a British news organization interested in a story about a small community in the BC Southern Interior?
“I think the Guardian, from the outset, are interested in the environment and obviously climate change. And they’re interested in climate displacement, rising cases of people being displaced from their homes around the world,” said Matt Lawrence Dix, co-director of Burned to the Ground.
He says people in the UK often have a preconceived notion of Canada as being a cold tundra. “When they hear about a town or a village in Canada that’s been impacted in the way Lytton has, it’s very shocking to a lot of people over there. I think maybe they see Lytton as an early warning or a sentinel post for places in the UK.”
Co-director Martin Glegg, who grew up in Scotland, points to a massive wildfire that broke out earlier this month in the highlands.
“It’s a rainy place and you don’t usually get any fires. But funnily enough, this year was the first year we had an out-of-control forest fire in Scotland. It’s kind of unheard of,” Glegg explained.
Both of the directors say the documentary wouldn’t have been possible without producer Nina Sidorczuk.
“Nina has all the relationships. She’s very well respected and liked in Lytton and was the person who unlocked the entire thing. Nina has a blood relations to JR, who was one of the main characters and kew all the other people that were in the story,” said Dix.
Glegg added that it was important to find people with different perspectives, from an Indigenous elder, to a young person displaced from their home.
They say it’s just coincidence that the documentary is coming out now, as wildfires rage in many parts of Canada, sending clouds of smoke drifting across the continent, leading to air quality warnings from New York to the Carolinas.
“I also think that every summer now there seems to be these fires,” Glegg notes. “Every summer there’s a story about a fire. If you release it in the summer it seems, more and more, its pertinent because they’re just increasingly happening across Canada.”