By JACKIE TEGART
IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE it’s been a year since a wildfire nearly destroyed the entire village of Lytton. With this first anniversary comes a wave of painful memories and trauma, as well as grief over just how much was lost — homes, businesses and, most tragically, two members of the community.
Although residents remain displaced and scattered around the province, it’s important that we find ways to connect and be there for each other during this challenging time. My office continues to be reachable toll-free at 1 (877) 378-4802 to anyone seeking information or assistance.
Many had hoped the debris removal and rebuilding of structures in Lytton would be further along by now. People are desperate to return to their homes and get back some semblance of normalcy. Some residents in temporary accommodations have had to move several times over the past year, from motel rooms to campgrounds to friends’ couches. They shouldn’t need to endure this added stress after everything they’ve been through.
Although residents are being told they should be able to return to their community by September, even if this deadline is met it only allows residents to start on the path of rebuilding. It provides no assurance as to when they will be able to enjoy the comfort of their own bed under their own roof.
This is why we need a long-term plan with timelines. A plan would provide more certainty for returning residents, and give them a bit of hope and optimism for the future which is sadly lacking right now. It would also provide a means to hold government to account if these goals and timelines are not met.
Residents also want to see a provincial funding commitment that matches what we’ve seen at the federal level. This would provide some reassurance to Lytton residents who should have received that signal soon after the fire. Right now, they see stark differences between the amount of work undertaken in areas of federal responsibility versus provincial, and to them it feels unfair and disheartening.
Yes, the people of Lytton are resilient — but they are exhausted, and they need to see some light at the end of this very long tunnel. I remain hopeful that in the coming months, the rebuilding process will start to move more quickly.
Jackie Tegart was elected as the MLA for Fraser-Nicola in 2013, 2017, and 2020. She currently serves as Assistant Deputy Speaker.