Little appears to have changed in Lytton since most of the community was destroyed by fire almost eleven months ago, but the village's mayor says the townsite will be rebuilt.
“There's no chance that Lytton won't be rebuilt. It will be rebuilt,” Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman said Thursday in response to a question from Castanet.
“There is absolutely no chance that this village will not be rebuilt. Should people or insurance companies wish to procrastinate — this town is under a state of emergency and I'll order it cleaned up. That's how that'll work.”
On Thursday, Federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair was in Lytton to see the devastation firsthand. He also announced $416 million in federal funding through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program for response and rebuild costs associated with the 2021 wildfires in British Columbia, Lytton included.
“I read the accounts, I see the film and the pictures, but you really have to come to the community and to be accompanied by people who this was their life, and this is their home, and this is their community and when they talk to you about the experience, and how quickly that fire burned through this community," he said.
"And just to see the level of devastation and debris, I think it's important for all orders of government to have that deep understanding."
The Lytton First Nation will receive $24 million for recovery including 39 interim housing units — federal cash in addition to the $416 million figure.
“There's a great sense of urgency in this community, but a remarkable sense of civic pride as well," Blair said. "People love this community, and they want to rebuild it and they feel a strong sense of urgency.”
Polderman said the site is still toxic, meaning residents can’t return to rebuild their homes, but he is confident the cleanup will be finished by September. He said he knows how frustrated residents are not being able to return home.
“We are sort of faced with the issue of our residents wanting to be back yesterday. Yet, as a village, we're looking to build a town that is going to be here for 100 years, and those two objectives sort of clash at times,” Polderman said.
Polderman said only 32 Lytton homes are being lived in at the moment, which he said represents a quarter to a third of the village's typical pre-fire population.