Speed Reads

Too Damn Hot

Lytton, the Canadian village that hit a record 121 degrees, has 'burnt down' in flash wildfire

Lytton, a town in British Columbia about 95 miles northeast of Vancouver, set and broke successive Canadian heat records for three consecutive days this week, topping out at a scorching 121.2 degrees on Tuesday. On Wednesday evening, a wildfire swept through Lytton, and on Thursday, Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC News "the town burnt down." 

Polderman signed an evacuation order at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. "I noticed some white smoke at the south end of town and within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole town was engulfed in flame," he said. Brad Vis, the local member of Parliament, said that 90 percent of Lytton was lost in the fire. The town's roughly 1,000 residents fled quickly in different directions, and with phone and cellphone service down, nobody is sure if everybody made it out safely. 

Lytton, a whitewater rafting destination at the junction of two rivers, "routinely reports some of the highest temperatures in Canada, due to a combination of dry air and low elevation," The Washington Post reports. Its temperature on Tuesday was higher than any recorded measurement in Las Vegas.

"Our poor little town of Lytton is gone," resident Edith Loring Kuhanga wrote on Facebook. "This is so devastating — we are all in shock! Our community members have lost everything." British Columbia Premier John Horgan said Thursday that 62 new fires had broken out in the previous 24 hours, the fire around Lytton had grown to 22,000 acres, and the fire risk remained "extreme" in most parts of British Columbia. The province, like Oregon and Washington, has been trapped under a brutal heat dome for a week, with hot air being pushed down and cooler currents kept out.

The week of intense record-breaking heat has caused nearly 100 deaths in Oregon and Washington, officials say, and even more in British Columbia. And the wildfires aren't unique to Canada — fire fighters are battling three blazes in Northern California, where residents, as in Lytton, had to evacuate with little warning and few possessions.