Nearly two weeks after a fire demolished most of the town of Lytton, investigators still haven't pinpointed the cause.
In an update today (July 12), the B.C. RCMP stated that several witnesses have been interviewed.
In addition, there's been a "fulsome search of two areas of interest related to the possible origin of the fire": a one-kilometre radius area near Lytton and a two-kilometre radius area near Boston Bar.
"Physical and digital forensic evidence has been collected with the assistance of the BC Wildfire Service and the RCMP Forensic Search and Evidence Recovery Team," the statement revealed.
The area near Lytton is a parking lot and park area on the south end of town at the end of River Drive.
"This area provides access to a foot and rail bridge that crosses the Fraser River," the statement pointed out. "The investigation is looking at all movements and actions of any individuals, vehicle traffic and a southbound freight train that were all in the area around 4:30 p.m."
The fire started in the late afternoon on June 30. Witnesses have told the media that they saw it race up a hill from the rail tracks.
The B.C. Wildfire Service has experts who conduct investigations into the cause of wildfires, following "internationally recognized scientific standards", according to Kurtis Isfield, the BCWS deputy director of provincial operations.
"As specialists, they have been trained to examine fire behaviour; fire ignition sources; fire ignition factors; burn patterns and other physical evidence," Isfield said in the RCMP statement. "An assessment of these factors helps determine where a wildfire started and identify the probable cause of that fire. During this investigation we appreciate the patience demonstrated by those impacted, it is critical that this process is afforded due diligence."
Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is conducting a separate investigation into the potential involvement of a freight train.
The B.C. RCMP also disclosed that it has followed up on 15 reports of possible missing persons over the past 11 days in connection with the Lytton fire. In all cases, the people were located and are safe.
Governments match donations
On July 11, the B.C. government said that it will match all donations up to $20 million to the Canadian Red Cross to help those affected by B.C. wildfires.
These donations will be matched retroactively to July 3 when the Red Cross launched its British Columbia Fires Appeal campaign.
The federal government is also matching donations on a dollar-for-dollar basis, which means that every $1 contributed results in a $3 contribution.
“This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us what we can do when we work together, and this is another chance for us to do that,” B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a July 11 news release. “The province continues to support evacuees through Emergency Support Services. By matching Red Cross contributions, donations will go even further to aid community recovery and the Red Cross’s critical work on the ground.”
Donations can be made in the following ways:
- online: https://donate.redcross.ca/page/85877/donate/1;
- by calling (toll-free) 1 800 418-1111;
- by texting FIRES to 45678; or
- by contacting their local Canadian Red Cross office.