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Fleeing flames in Lytton while desperately trying to connect with loved ones

Fraser Canyon residents share stories of scrambling to get away with no word on family and friends
Kasey Johnny, pictured here in Boothroyd on July 1, 2021, has many friends and family in Lytton she said she hadn’t heard from after the devastating fire that destroyed much of the town on June 30, 2021. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)

With tears in her eyes, Kasey Johnny says she hasn’t heard from some of her relatives in Lytton since the fire ravaged the town Wednesday.

“I live here but all our family is in Lytton,” the Boothroyd resident, who grew up in Lytton, told Black Press Media Thursday morning.

“I haven’t heard from all of them. There are people from Gladwin that I haven’t heard from at all. I called around and they haven’t checked in anywhere.”

Johnny broke down crying saying that she heard about one man who refused to leave the town and hasn’t been heard from since.

She says there are a few people she is looking for on Facebook. She has made posts in the hopes that other people who have seen them can let her know.

“It’s really hard to sit here and not know.”

ALSO READ: Officials hopeful entire Lytton community escaped wildfire

THE LATEST: 90% of Lytton destroyed in wildfire, injuries reported

Complicating communication in the Fraser Canyon is the spotty internet.

Johnny said her best friend lives in Lytton and is currently being sheltered in Lillooet. That friend lost her dog when her house burned down. Johnny also has family members who had many animals including horses, chickens, dogs, cats and a pony. That family made the difficult decision to let the animals free so they could potentially save themselves.

Black Press Media spoke to Johnny at an information meeting at the Wilfred Campbell Community Centre in Boothroyd on July 1.

The atmosphere was tense as people looked for ways to connect with loved ones and ensure they are OK.

Nearby in Boston Bar, Jean McKay, sat wondering if she will even have a home to return to.

She and her 22-year-old daughter, Deirdre McKay, started to panic as the smell of smoke filled their house in the First Nations community of Kanaka Bar, home to about 100 people and approximately 15 kilometres south of Lytton.

“I was still sitting there and wondering what to pack, emotionally walking out my door but thinking, ‘I’m leaving all this behind.’ It’s hard. Very hard. When my girlfriend told me her house was burning it really hit home,” McKay said.

“My daughter phoned before we lost services and stuff; she’s telling us, ‘Get out of there, get out of there.’”

Leaving their home was extremely difficult, she said: “I cried. My daughter cried. She said ‘I don’t even know why I grabbed my key. We might not even have a home.’ I said, ‘Yeah I know. As long as we’re together we’ll survive.’ I just pray that our houses are OK.”

There was one memento her daughter couldn’t leave behind: “She grabbed my dad’s picture off the wall,” McKay said. “I’m telling her, ‘We’re walking out and this is the home we built forever and that you guys grew up in.’ It’s harsh.”

McKay said that with nowhere to go, she, her two daughters, her granddaughter and her mother went to stay at the CP Rail “bunkhouse” in Boston Bar, where she works as a cleaning supervisor and where crews often stay overnight.

Her thoughts late Wednesday night were on the damage the wildfire may have inflicted on Lytton and the surrounding area.

“Now I’m wondering if the bridge is still standing in Lytton. There’s a train bridge that the community walks on too. That fire was all around that area.”

McKay said there was no sign of any trouble shortly before the stench of smoke blanketed the area around her home.

Meanwhile, in the closest large community of Chilliwack, an emergency services centre has been set up and the community is collecting supplies to help the Lytton fire victims.

READ MORE: Chilliwack opens evacuation centre amid Lytton wildfire, community members offer help

– with files from Canadian Press

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