A wildfire that forced people to flee a small town in British Columbia that had set record temperatures for Canada on three consecutive days is burning out of control as relatives desperately seek information on evacuees.
The roughly 1,000 residents of Lytton had to abandon their homes with just a few minutes notice on Wednesday evening after enduring temperatures of 121.2F (49.6 C) the previous day.
The province’s public safety minister, Mike Farnworth, said on Thursday afternoon that most homes and buildings in Lytton had been destroyed and some residents were unaccounted for.
The British Columbia Wildfire Service said the Lytton blaze was raging out of control over an area spanning roughly 30 square miles. Several other fires were burning in the region as a heatwave baked western Canada.
Lytton city council member Lilliane Graie, on behalf of mayor Jan Polderman, said in an email that the fire had devastated the town, which is a First Nations community about 95 miles north east of Vancouver.
“Our people are scattered north and south and we are trying to establish who is where,” she wrote.
At least some of the people who fled Lytton went to a recreational centre in Lillooet, a town about 40 miles to the north.
John Haugen, a deputy chief with the Lytton First Nation, said leaders were trying to account for members who did not get to Lillooet.
“It’s incomprehensible, people are so anxious and worried about what comes next for them,” he said, adding the community had suffered tremendous “devastation and loss”.
In a television appearance, British Columbia premier John Horgan said: “Three consecutive days of the highest recorded temperature in Canadian history all happened in Lytton this week. To have a heatwave and a horrific fire is so troubling and so challenging for the people of this community.”
The heat in Lytton set its first national record on Sunday, reaching 115F (45.1C), then set another high Monday, at 118.2F (47.9C). After yet another record high on Tuesday, the heat eased to 102F (39C) on Wednesday.