The BC man said he watched in horror as the Lytton wildfire took the lives of his parents
Warning: This story contains graphic details.
A resident living in Litton, British Columbia, said he was helplessly afraid of seeing his parents dying while avoiding wildfires when a wildfire raged and eventually destroyed most of the village.
Jeff Chapman said that he saw a wire fall onto a ditch, and his parents were hiding after the flames engulfed their home. After the fire passed, he said he saw their bodies.
As the area is still inaccessible, officials cannot confirm the death toll.
Chapman said that when he and his 60-year-old parents were preparing for a barbecue in the late afternoon, they noticed smoke and flames in the distance.
‘We have nowhere to go’
“Ten minutes later, our house was completely swallowed up. There was nothing we could do. It came so fast that we had nowhere to go,” he said.
When the fire engulfed the house and the sheds and trees on the house, Chapman said he helped his parents take refuge in the ditches dug to repair the septic tank.
Watch | Jeff Chapman recalls his reaction to the wildfire:
The strong wind stirred up flames and smoke around him, and Chapman said he ran to some nearby railroad tracks, hoping that the fire would pass.
At that time, he said that the power line had crashed in the ditch where his parents were hiding.
“I know my parents are in that cave, and I watched the house catch fire, and I was thinking,’Gosh.’
“The wires were unplugged directly from the house and fell directly on my parents.”
Chapman said that when he was lying exhausted and barely able to breathe, he was sure that the fire would take him away. But the fire spread quickly to the area as soon as it arrived, and he said he was eventually able to return to the property.
“I hope I didn’t. I saw the remains of my mom and dad and they were burned,” he said.
The coroner, the police search the town
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said the death of Chapman’s parents has not been confirmed because officials have not been able to approach the area so far.
“The plan is to let the coroner and the police come in this morning,” Lapointe said earlier Friday. “It was too dangerous to let anyone in last night.”
More than 1,000 people fled the village and surrounding areas on Wednesday, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are trying to find the missing people.
Lytton First Nation Acting Chief John Haugen has been urging people to contact family and friends who have been dispersed due to the evacuation. He was in the city center when the fire spread.
“It’s a complete panic. It blows in and blocks everything in the way,” he said.
Haugen said it will take months or even years for the community to survive the trauma of Wednesday’s fire.
“It will never be the same,” he said. “But it will stay in people’s memory and mind forever.”
Chapman has been reunited with his family’s dog, but is working hard to accept what happened on Wednesday.
“I think it’s my fault,” he said.
“I tried my best at the time. No one knows what to do in this situation.”
Anyone who receives an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centers have been set up at the following locations to help anyone evacuating from communities threatened by wildfires:
- Castlegar: Castlegar Community Complex, 2102 6th Ave.
- Chilliwack: Chilliwack High School, 46363 Yale Road.
- Kelowna: Salvation Army, 1480 Sutherland Avenue.
- Merritt: Merritt Civic Center, 1950 Mamette Ave.
Encourage evacuees to Emergency Support Service Online, regardless of whether they receive services in an evacuation center.
Those looking for relatives can call the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582 for family reunion services