After reaching a Canadian record high of 49.5°C last June, wildfire spread through and decimated the British Columbia Village of Lytton. Now, the Canadian government is spending more than $77 million to help rebuild the town with sustainable, fire-resistant infrastructure.
The village of just 250 residents saw how easily the wildfire spread from one building to another, and now hopes that new builds over several years can provide reassurance and resilience as climate change continues to create extreme emergencies throughout the province.
While the new structures can’t be made fireproof, Lytton’s residents believe they can work to be made fire-resistant.
“With this investment, Lytton will be positioned to become a leader in resilient, net-zero design that will support the community for today and tomorrow alike,” announced Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the disaster.
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Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman said the village could start rebuilding in September. First, he planned to enact new bylaws to require fire-resistant materials in new buildings such as non-flammable siding and roofing materials, and to keep combustibles such as vegetation, sheds and wood piles at a safe distance from buildings.
Of the new federal funding, $64 million will support the rebuilding process. Another $6 million will go to the new Lytton Homeowner Resilient Rebuild program to support insured homeowners who will rebuild to net-zero and fire-resistant standards; and lastly, $7.2 million will go to create the Lytton Business Restart program to help small- and medium-sized businesses get back on their feet.
The funding is in addition to the $207 million announced earlier this month through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement to support 2021 wildfire recovery efforts across B.C.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Lytton wildfire caused some $78 million in insured damage, with roughly 300 claims. Two lives were lost.
While it is unknown precisely how the homes, businesses and public buildings may be rebuilt in terms of fireproofing, FireSmart BC offers a number of recommendations to keep a home safer from the risk of fire.
Comprised of a group of organizations that work together to support wildfire preparedness, FireSmart BC suggests taking extra precautions if a house is built on a hill, as fire moves fastest uphill. Trees on the property should be spaced at least three metres apart, and the particular type of tree planted should be considered, as some are more resistant to wildfire, such as poplars and maples. Additionally, all combustible materials within 10 metres of the home should be considered as a potential risk, or combustible landscaping. Removing them reduces fuel load, experts say.
Building materials should include concrete foam, a metal roof and concrete floors. Attics are not recommended.
The initial cause of the Lytton wildfire was never determined.