LYTTON, British Columbia – (AP) – A forensic team arrived in a Canadian town destroyed by a wildfire on Saturday to confirm reports that two people were killed in the fires that forced residents to abandon their houses with a few minutes notice several days ago.
The British Columbia coroners’ service said they would enter the devastated village of Lytton, 150 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, “only if it was found to be safe.”
Lytton’s 1,000 or so residents fled their homes on Wednesday night after suffering from a record 121.2 degrees Fahrenheit (49.6 degrees Celsius) the day before.
A resident said he saw his parents die when a power line fell on them as he tried to hide from the flames.
Jeff Chapman told CBC News that he and his parents, who were in their 60s, were getting ready for a late afternoon barbecue when they saw smoke and flames approaching.
âThere was nothing we could do,â Chapman said. “It happened so quickly that we had nowhere to go.”
Chapman said he helped his parents take refuge in a trench that had been dug to repair a septic tank. He covered the trench with tin. Then he spent the next 45 minutes lying on the gravel of a railroad track as the fire burned around him.
When he returned to pick up his parents, a power line had fallen on them.
âWe just tried to save what we have worked for our whole life,â he said. “It might not have been the best, but it was home.”
Those who escaped the blaze have dispersed to evacuation centers across the province.
John Haugen, Acting Chief of the Lytton First Nation, said many people are still in shock at losing their homes.
âFor many it’s traumatic,â he told Global News. “They still haven’t quite figured out that they don’t have a home to go to as well.”
The BC Wildfire Service says the fire that burns near Lytton has reached 32,000 square miles (83,000 square kilometers).
Another fire near Kamloops, British Columbia, forced authorities to evacuate more than 100 homes on Friday evening.
The cause of the wildfire that devastated Lytton is under investigation. Earlier this week, Prime Minister John Horgan said he had heard anecdotal evidence linking the start of the fire to a train passing through the community.
The office of Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in an emailed statement that it would take necessary action if any potential non-compliance with Canada’s rail safety laws and regulations were identified.
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