iN VIDEO: Lytton Creek wildfire destroys structures, home northwest of Merritt | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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iN VIDEO: Lytton Creek wildfire destroys structures, home northwest of Merritt

Matt Vanderveen's property along Highway 8.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Matt Vanderveen
August 20, 2021 - 12:20 PM

An Abbotsford farmer with property outside of Merritt has lost multiple structures and a home due to the Lytton Creek wildfire.

Matt Vanderveen has a ranch along Highway 8 near Dot Ranch Cut-Off Road outside of Merritt with plans to eventually start a dairy farm. He currently has one in Abbotsford.

On Sunday, Aug. 15, when the Lytton Creek wildfire blazed through his property, he took a video of his escape and posted it on Facebook, where it was shared thousands of times.

Their ranch was under an evacuation order, but they stayed behind to help their neighbours and wanted to try and deal with spot fires since they had equipment, he said.

They didn’t see resources fighting the fire other than a few helicopters, which he said didn’t have buckets. While helping a neighbour load his cattle, they started to see the fire grow.

“Basically to get in, we drove through flames basically to get back to our property and took a look around. There was absolutely nothing we could do at that point, it was like a scene in an Armageddon movie," Vanderveen said.

READ MORE: Rainfall this weekend likely not enough to help firefighting in Kamloops, Okanagan

They grabbed what they could, hooked up a trailer and started back down the road.

“The heat was just unbelievable coming off that fire,” he said.

He hasn’t been able to get back to his property, but others in the area have sent him images confirming his hay shed, out buildings, some equipment and his ranch manager’s house were lost in the blaze.

“He had just purchased it in February and was pretty excited to have a decent-sized house for their big family and that hurt me more than anything I lost on our ranch,” Vanderveen said.

They don’t yet know the extent of the equipment lost, but some of it is uninsured because the deductible on the equipment was nearly as much as the price of the equipment, he said.

“At the end of the day, we helped another ranch get their animals out,” he said. “We did lose a lot of structures, financially it’s going to suck, especially my ranch manager losing his house but we both agree we were supposed to be there to help those other people and in the ranching and farming community, that’s what we do."

READ MORE: Mount Law wildfire slowly creeping towards Okanagan Connector

Dot Ranch, another ranch in the area, also experienced significant losses, he said. They couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

An evacuation order in the area remains in place by the Thompson Nicola Regional District. The entire Lower Nicola region has been evacuated and the City of Merritt is also under an evacuation alert due to the Lytton Creek wildfire.

B.C. Wildfire Service fire information officer Shelley Bird said fire behaviour picked up substantially this past weekend due to winds and hot weather on all fires in B.C.

Work that was done to secure the fire line along Highway 8 from Spences Bridge to Shackan Indian Band and a fire guard was put down in the Shackin area to try and prevent the fire from spreading, Bird said.

“With the wind event, the southern part of the fire did get pushed below that fire guard and it did a run around it and (with) extreme winds that fire moved 15 kilometres that day so it crossed Highway 8 and headed towards Highway 97C,” Bird said.

READ MORE: Bulk of wildfire destruction on Okanagan Lake's west side in Estamont

With extreme fire conditions like that, it’s not safe to have fire crews on the ground as the number one priority is life safety, she said.

There has also been pressure on resources this year due to the extent of the wildfire season, she said, but in this instance, it wasn’t safe for firefighters to be on the ground.

“As far as managing that edge of the fire, the winds were pushing the smoke ahead of the fire so all that could be seen ahead was a column of smoke heading to the east so it was actually really difficult for firefighters from the air to see where the edge of the fire was, so it was very challenging to action that and the flying conditions were difficult as well,” Bird said.

The Lytton Creek wildfire is currently 84,327 hectares in size and burning out of control.

The Highway 8 corridor was unsafe for the last few days due to dangerous trees and downed power lines. Now that the road has been cleared, the Thompson Nicola Regional District has performed an assessment in the area and is in the process of contacting residents to inform them about structure damages and losses, she said.

For the safety of people, she encourages everyone under an evacuation order to follow it.

“If a fire is coming towards a community or house and there’s people there, the first priority is getting those people out… and we may not be able to save structures,” Bird said.

The service’s first priority is to secure the southern perimeter of the fire to prevent further spread south to neighbouring communities and the weather has been cooperating this week so far, she said.

“The fire absolutely did touch down in that area and there has been some structure loss,” Priscilla Kazarian with the regional district’s emergency operations centre said.

If anyone is wondering about their property along Highway 8, the regional district is asking residents to reach out to the emergency operations centre here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2021

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