On June 30, 2021, the Village of Lytton in British Columbia suffered a devastating and rapid-spreading wildfire. The fire killed two people, burned down 90 per cent of the village, destroyed over 100 properties, and ruined almost 40 homes in the Lytton First Nation (LFN) community. It also resulted in an estimated $78 million in insured damage, according to the Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).
“The first time I went to Lytton after the fire, I remember standing on a perfectly untouched sidewalk and looking at where someone’s home used to be,” shared Ron Dickinson, Lytton’s acting Chief Building Official. “I looked past the chimney and what was left of a picket fence, and the rest of the village was gone. It was a stark reminder of how the instant the fire went through, everything changed. I want to keep that perspective in mind as we work to rebuild Lytton.”
From the rubble and debris, village officials are starting to rebuild Lytton with the help of local governments across B.C. and that support is possible by making the physical distance between Lytton and helpers irrelevant.
“We adopted an online permitting solution that will allow us to accept and use the support we’ve been offered from building professionals across the province,” said Dickinson.
Lytton’s recent partnership with Cloudpermit, cloud-based permitting software, will enable seamless and online collaboration, time-stamped direct and group messages, and remote access to permit and inspection information between Lytton and other building professionals across B.C. This greatly expands who can lend a hand during Lytton’s time of need.
Once the solution is available for public use, Dickinson anticipates a high influx of permits.
“Cloudpermit is accessible to anyone, anywhere, so it will be a tremendous help that we can share plan reviews and applications with people all over the province without them ever needing to be in Lytton,” he continued. “I can have a plan review done in Terrace, which is 1000 kilometres away, and receive an immediate result.”
Right now, Lytton’s Building Department is working on demolition permits to remove hazardous materials, and once it is safe to do so, construction can begin.
Dickinson has experience rebuilding after tragedies – he, in his previous role as the Director of the Alliance of Canadian Building Officials’ Association (ACBOA), travelled across Canada inviting over 400 building officials to join in rebuilding Christchurch, New Zealand, after the city suffered from devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Over a two-year period, he and approximately 50 other Canadian building officials worked from Christchurch to support rebuilding efforts. And it is this experience that helps shape predictions on how Lytton will look in the coming years.
“After Christchurch’s earthquakes, 10 to 20 per cent of the population did not move back,” revealed Dickinson. “In Lytton, we anticipate that once demolition is finished, there will be a rush to rebuild between 30 to 50 houses right away.”
He stressed the importance of being sensitive to the long-lasting impacts of the fire beyond physical buildings, and ensuring they are not without the input of the First Nation community across the highway that also lost homes, schools, and infrastructure from the fire.
An online building permit process is one of the many ways village officials are working to rebuild as thoughtfully and quickly as possible.
By moving development processes online, residents have improved transparency into their permits and can expect their homes to be built sooner as permit issuance is sped up by at least 50 per cent with online permitting software.
“We’re looking forward to moving our permits and records online for safe record-keeping,” said Dickinson, as he shared that Lytton’s past permits and records were destroyed in the fire. “It will also make it easier for us and other building professionals to access permits and inspections from any mobile device whenever and wherever we need to access them.”
Dickinson is among several government-appointed leaders who are helping rebuild Lytton, along with Ron Mattiussi (acting Chief Administrative Officer) and Terry Hawes (acting Chief Financial Officer).
Soon, all those lending a hand to rebuild Lytton can work together online to accept, review, and issue building permits, as well as request and conduct inspections.
“The Village of Lytton has the support of the Building Officials’ Association of B.C. (BOABC) and several local governments in B.C., and by moving development processes online, building officials and inspectors across the province can remotely help rebuild Lytton,” shared Nathan Brooks, Building Official with the City of Terrace and the North West Zone Director for the BOABC. “Terrace’s own use of Cloudpermit has saved me time that I can now use to offer my services to Lytton’s rebuilding efforts without needing to physically be there.”
It is no surprise that the larger B.C. community, local governments, organizations, and individuals have not been shy to brainstorm ways they can help in the face of tragedy.
“As soon as I heard about Lytton’s devastating fire, I knew we had to help,” voiced Paul Hollas, Cloudpermit’s Sales Manager, Western Canada. “Our solution is an ideal fit for what Lytton needs right now because it implements quickly, is available 24 hours a day, and would allow others, like BOABC members, to remotely help with reviews and inspections. I am grateful to be part of such wonderful comradery in B.C. and feel privileged Cloudpermit will help Lytton efficiently rebuild.”
To donate to Lytton’s relief and rebuilding efforts, visit lytton.ca/rebuild-fund