'Wrong on so many levels': Lytton residents react to corporate video filmed in town's fire ruins

A number of Lytton residents, both current and former, are voicing their anger over a corporate video that was filmed in the town’s fire ruins.

“It’s pretty horrifying; for all of us here, it’s really triggering,” said current resident Meghan Fandrich.

Tricia Thorpe lives about three miles south of the village and said: “They’re talking about walking on sunshine; it’s more like walking through an open grave site there right now.”

The video was made by Calgary-based ATCO to celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary.

“For over 75 years, we’ve been where the world needs us,” the caption reads.

The video uses a cover of the song “Walking on Sunshine” and follows two young girls going to plant a tree. Part of their journey was filmed through the village of Lytton, in front of and through fire rubble.

“It was appalling, it was insensitive, it was re-traumatizing,” said Michele Fiest. “The choice of music, given that the town was destroyed by a heat dome, was particularly galling.”

Feist lost her home in last year’s deadly blaze and now lives in Williams Lake.

“I fled for my life from that place. I was lucky … we were all lucky to survive that fire,” she said. “There’s just so many levels that (the video) is really offensive.”

The video was posted on the company’s website and social media feeds Wednesday, with one commenter on Twitter saying: “As a person who grew up in #Lytton, this video really upset me.”

In response, the company wrote: “The story is entirely fictional, and a portion of this video was filmed in Lytton, B.C., where a wildfire devastated the town in 2021. ATCO has been working with the town to provide meaningful support for their recovery and rebuilding.”

“Somebody trying to take advantage of somebody’s tragedy in chase of the almighty dollar is wrong on so many levels,” said Thorpe.

The video was raised at the BC legislature during question period Thursday, with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth asked how a private company could film a commercial before the residents have been allowed to return to their homes.

“This was a decision made by the council of Lytton,” Farnworth said. “It is not something that I would have done. Council makes these decisions. They don’t have to come to the province. I find it quite mind-boggling.”

Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman tells CTV News that ATCO was given approval by council to film the commercial, with the shoot lasting “a day and a half” at the beginning of April.

Polderman said the company originally offered a “very generous” donation of $50,000 and a trailer, but believes that figure has since been doubled.

“It could well be $100,000,” Polderman said, adding he hasn’t yet seen the cheque.

All residents CTV News spoke with say they want the video taken down, and an apology from both ATCO and the mayor.

Polderman is standing by the decision.

“I thought that the ad was very tastefully done; it brings emotions up,” he said, adding that’s he’s trying to move the town forward while still rebuilding.

“The opportunities for the village to raise funds that we can spend without approval with other levels of government are not that frequent,” Polderman said. “This money will be used in the rebuild of Lytton for the benefit of residents.”