Lytton fire suspected to be human caused

Structures destroyed by fire are seen in Lytton, B.C., on Thursday, July 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The source of a devastating fire that destroyed most of the small village of Lytton and killed at least two people remains under investigation, but B.C. officials say it's suspected to be human-caused.

Investigators are expected to be on scene Monday to determine what specifically sparked the fire.

"Our staff are working very closely with the RCMP to investigate the specific cause of the Lytton Creek fire," BC Wildfire Service's Erika Berg told CTV News Monday. "It remains under investigation."

When asked if the fire was human-caused, Berg said "it's suspected at this time, but there is no confirmation."

Berg explained that even though there were multiple wildfires burning near the village at the time, the devastating one that destroyed most of Lytton's infrastructure was separate and started in town. 

Officials confirmed over the weekend that at least two people had been killed by the blaze.

“With the assistance of the RCMP, the special investigations team at the BC Coroners Service was able to safely access the site today and we can now confirm two fatalities in Lytton,” a spokesperson for BC Coroners Service said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“Our investigation is ongoing at this time, but preliminary findings at the scene suggest the decedents match two deaths reported by their family member.”

The coroners service said it has not received any other reports of deaths linked to the fire, but officials have said that some people remain unaccounted for, partially because of the hasty evacuation of the village on Wednesday night.

In a statement issued Sunday, B.C. RCMP said it's working alongside BCWS to determine the cause and origin of the blaze.

"The investigation is a priority and remains active and ongoing," the statement released by Dawn Roberts says. "We have no timeline on how long it will take, but it will be thorough. We ask everyone for patience and to allow the investigation the time and space to determine the facts."

Premier John Horgan previously said he had heard anecdotal evidence linking the start of the fire to a train running through the community, though officials haven't confirmed that.

Since April 1, BCWS has responded to just under 680 wildfires, Berg said. About 89,600 hectares have burned in the province so far this year.

"About half of that total so far has been attributed to human activity," Berg said. "The remaining total has been sparked by natural causes or remain under investigation."

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Vancouver's Regan Hasegawa