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Grocery store opens near Lytton nearly 2 years after B.C. village was destroyed by fire

For the first time since a wildfire destroyed the village of Lytton, B.C., in the summer of 2021, people living in the area have a nearby place to get groceries.

On Monday, the Lytton First Nation held a “soft opening” for a community store located about five kilometres from the village. The store carries — among other things — fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, dairy products, and canned and frozen goods.

“We have everything,” John Sam, the economic development manager for the Lytton First Nation, told CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

“It’s the little store that could.”

A counter with a computer monitor and scale is shown. There are three shelves on a wall, filled with goods, and sign that reads "Community Store."
The front counter of the community store near the village of Lytton, B.C. (Thom Ross/Facebook)

Sam says community response has been positive.

“Yesterday, I was at the store, and I took out my little notepad, and I just got a couple comments,” he said. “They said, ‘The store is nice, looks pretty good.'”

“People are finally able to get groceries locally versus going to Lillooet, Ashcroft, Hope and Merritt.”

The store is constructed out of four gutted cargo trailers, so space is limited.

“They did an incredible job with setting it up and designing it,” Sam said. “When you have a store that size, you have to make maximum use of the square footage, which has been done, I hope.”

Record temperatures preceded wildfire

In the days leading up to the 2021 wildfire, the community of about 250 people had been setting heat records for the entire country. The mercury climbed as high as 49.6 C, which left vegetation dry and combustible.

In the aftermath of the blaze — known as the Lytton Creek wildfire — the B.C. Wildfire Service said it was likely human-caused. It burned down homes and businesses and left two people dead. With no other options, survivors scattered across the province.

The federal government has committed $77 million toward the rebuilding of Lytton, and the province has committed $48.7 million.

A white police truck drives down a road past shells of burned-out vehicles and structures destroyed by a wildfire.
An RCMP vehicle drives past the remains of vehicles and structures in Lytton, B.C., on Friday, July 9, 2021, after a wildfire destroyed most of the village on June 30. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

No new construction yet

Rebuilding was supposed to start in September 2022, but that hasn’t happened. While preliminary work has been underway, Mayor Denise O’Connor says there has been no new construction at the village site.

“The debris is pretty much all cleared,” she said on Tuesday afternoon. “I know there’s a little bit more work to do. They’re still remediating some soil. We haven’t been given any timelines, and that’s been an issue all along. They keep saying ‘soon.’ But archeology is ongoing, and we don’t know when it’s going to be finished. We hear maybe end of February — somewhere in there.”

O’Connor says actual construction could start in late spring.

In the meantime, she has already visited the new community store and is happy it’s now an option for people.

“I was quite amazed how much stuff they have in it — a good variety, all the basic things we need,” she said. “So yeah, we’re not having to travel an hour or more to get groceries, so that will be great.”

Daybreak Kamloops3:49New community story opened by Lytton First Nation

For the first time since the fire that destroyed the village, people in Lytton are now have a place to shop locally.

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