How the Lytton rebuild went wrong

Nearly two years later, rebuilding has yet to begin. Politics, bureaucracy, and Lytton's unique nature have conspired against the village.

Stand on the dirt road that overlooks the Lytton townsite, and you can imagine the sensory cacophony of a town rebuilding. The sound of hammer on nails; the smell of drying paint and wet tar; the sights of lives starting over.

But you need to imagine it. Because down below, Lytton remains a flattened heap of dirt and concrete, amid which only a handful of workers sifting methodically and patiently through dirt for debris and contaminants, as they have done for the past year. Security workers linger. Traffic is rare.

Seven days after Lytton burned to the ground in 2021, BC Premier John Horgan stood in front of an array of cameras and pledged to rebuild.

More than that, Lytton would be rebuilt as a “community for the future” and become an example of successfully preparing for a warmer climate, Horgan promised.

But 600-plus days into that future, rebuilding remains a goal, not a task. In the face of delays and bureaucracy, some displaced residents have decided not to return, whenever that might be possible. Others have had the choice made for them: on this February morning came news that an elderly resident who dreamed of returning and rebuilding had died, a new Lytton still a concept, rather than a reality.

Today, the village has become another sort of case study.

This is the story about the immense difficulty of rebuilding a tiny, traumatized community, and how BC’s post-disaster gameplan was ill-prepared to pave the way to reconstruct a village in its darkest hour.

This is why Lytton remains, as its new mayor calls it, “a wasteland.”

This story was written based on interviews, previous news coverage, interviews by other media, footage from council meetings, and personal observations from more than a dozen trips to the townsite throughout the last two years.

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