Lytton debris removal delays a result of archaeological importance, costing issues

The village of Lytton is still rebuilding 10 months after a wildfire swept through, killing two people and destroying dozens of homes. As Kylie Stanton reports, the residents now say they face another challenge: delays in debris removal.

Frustration is growing for some residents of fire-razed Lytton as debris removal has yet to even start on their properties, despite it being 10 months since the wildfire swept through the village.

The homes were built on a culturally significant site to the Nlaka’pamux Nation and the B.C. government has committed to identifying and preserving any archeological findings before any rebuilding can begin.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) says this important work takes time and there are many steps involved.

“Some of the current challenges relate to archeological permitting and costing and also the soil sampling and remediation,” Rob de Pruis, national director, consumer and industry relations with the IBC told Global News Monday.

He said insurance does not cover archaeological costs and there could be artifacts in the ground that could be up to 10,000 years old.

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de Pruis added the soil needs to be sifted in a very extensive archaeological process so they are working with government officials to provide costing for this process and then work with homeowners so they are not on the hook for those costs.

“We need to do this on a property-by-property basis only because some of the debris removal is more extensive than other properties, so this takes time,” de Pruis said.

He compared the situation in Killiney Beach, where homes also burned down, and most of the debris has been cleared there and some rebuilding has begun.

But work cannot proceed at the same speed in Lytton as it is a more complicated process.

“We were hoping to get the debris removal cleared and work well underway eight or nine months ago and here we are, 10 months later, we still don’t have the vast majority of debris cleared,” de Pruis said.

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A big issue is figuring out who is responsible to cover what costs, he explained. For example, if a property has some soil contamination that is not related to the wildfire, then they have to figure out which agency is going to pay for that soil remediation versus other work being done.

“Getting that costing outlined on a lot-by-lot basis is taking some time,” de Pruis said.

In a statement Sunday, Emergency Management B.C. said it was working with the village, insurance providers and the local First Nation to get work done “as quickly as possible.”

“EMBC and the Village of Lytton are in discussions with insurance providers to ensure debris removal is completed as soon as possible,” it said.

“The province is unaware of any reason insurance providers cannot immediately commence debris removal on insured properties, and insured property owners should engage with their providers on this matter.”

But de Pruis said the timeline is currently out of their control as they just don’t know what the archaeological process will cost and how much time it is going to take.

The Village of Lytton is a known archaeological area of interest and de Prus said this work cannot be rushed.

“This is pretty unique,” he said. “There’s not a lot of other communities across Canada where we’ve come across an archaeological component.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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