B.C. officials refuse to disclose number of people reported missing after Lytton fire

Various high-ranking officials updated journalists on the status of the wildfires forcing evacuations in B.C., but none of them would reveal how many people are unaccounted for in the deadly blaze that destroyed the town of Lytton

The chief coroner, a B.C. RCMP spokesperson, the provincial health officer and representatives from the BC Wildfire Branch and Emergency Management BC were on hand for a teleconference, but despite being asked twice, they insisted they didn’t have the numbers at hand.

“I don’t want to suggest I don’t have the numbers, I just don’t have the numbers with me today,” said Pader Brach from Emergency Management BC. “The Red Cross as part of its family reunification service is taking those calls and inquiries as far as persons that are missing as a result of the Lytton fire.”

CTV News asked the Red Cross for the figures, but the agency refused and referred us back to Emergency Management BC; they later said EMBC had assured them the request had been escalated. Despite follow up calls and emails, CTV News still hasn’t had a reply.

LOGISTICAL CHALLENGES PLAYING A ROLE

The Lytton evacuees would typically have been directed to one or two nearby community centres for food, shelter and other government assistance. In this case, they’re staying with friends or have been told to go to one of four reception centres in Merritt, Kelowna, Chilliwack, and Castlegar, which is a six-hour drive from the town.

“Hotel capacity is an issue right now,” said Brach. “A lot of public buildings that are large enough that can support people in our communities are being used for vaccinations for COVID, are being utilized for cooling centres.”

The Red Cross is urging all displaced residents to register with them even if they have somewhere to stay long-term, so that their families know they’re safe and the RCMP don’t launch a missing persons investigation. 

Their Family Reunification Line is at 1-800-863-6582 and is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT.

If you have been separated from family members as a result of fires in British Columbia, or are looking for someone that has been impacted or displaced, please call our family reunification line at 1-800-863-6582. This service is available from 8 am to 8 pm PT, 7 days a week. pic.twitter.com/2pTDiwlC7z

— Canadian Red Cross (@redcrosscanada) July 2, 2021