The community of Lytton all but burned down after it broke Canada's all-time heat record three days in a row, peaking at 49.6°C on Tuesday.
The British Columbia Wildfire Service reported more than 160 new wildfires over the past week as the province witnessed the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. Nine of the blazes were considered “wildfires of note” on Friday due to their visibility and threat to populated areas. Thick smoke from the fires will blanket Interior B.C. through the weekend.
EXTREME FIRE DANGER ON FRIDAY, UNHEALTHY AIR QUALITY ACROSS B.C.
Environment Canada expects “very high” to “extreme” fire danger to persist across portions of Interior British Columbia on Friday.
The hot and dry conditions, coupled with "dry lightning" from the occasional thunderstorm, have raised wildfire risk to extreme across much of the west, with several wildfires burning aside from the blaze that consumed Lytton. Multiple evacuation orders and alerts are in effect for parts of the Interior.
Widespread smoke from the out-of-control fires will lead to poor air quality across Interior B.C. Thick smoke can lead to health issues for those who have respiratory issues such as asthma. Limit time spent outdoors when the air quality is poor, and wear a tight-fitting, high-quality mask while outside to prevent the fine particulates in the smoke from entering your lungs.
HEAT WAVE RESPONSIBLE FOR FUELING FIRES
The unprecedented heat that roasted the province earlier in the week made a bad situation worse, further drying out vegetation and allowing small fires to grow into raging infernos with little notice.
The historic heat wave that built over western Canada and the northwestern United States was the result of an intense ridge of high pressure that covered the region for more than a week. Clear skies, bright sunshine, and sinking air beneath the ridge sent temperatures soaring to unparalleled levels.
Lytton, B.C., set Canada’s all-time high temperature record three days in a row, beginning on Sunday, June 27. The streak culminated with a sweltering daytime high of 49.6°C, surpassing the old national record of 45°C that stood for more than 80 years.
AT LEAST TWO REPORTED DEAD IN LYTTON WILDFIRE
Soon after crushing Canada's all-time heat records, Lytton was struck by a fast-moving fire that has all but consumed the village, leaving at least two people dead.
B.C.'s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe told media her office was investigating reports of the deaths, but a fuller investigation wouldn't possible until the local situation improved.
"It’s not safe to enter the area right now. And when they receive the approval to go to the site they will do that,” Lapointe told Global News. “They will conduct their investigation. And at that point, we’ll be able to confirm officially whether or not there are fatalities. And of course, you know, hopefully, we will not receive any other reports.”
The situation on Tuesday night unfolded so fast that many residents only had a few minutes to prepare before being ordered to leave as RCMP officers went door to door.
Around 1,000 people in and around the village were forced to flee to neighbouring communities, and most of the town has been destroyed, including its police station, ambulance station and grocery store, according to CTV News.
"From what I can see in town there's only a few houses left, so it'll be a total rebuild.
The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, but officials told CBC a train may have sparked it.
WATCH BELOW: ESCAPING LYTTON AS THE FLAMES SPREAD
Thumbnail of Lytton, B.C., courtesy of 2 Rivers Remix Society via Facebook