Matcon Environmental, whose construction arm has handled some of B.C.’s largest residential and commercial excavations projects, is leading the boots-on-the-ground clean-up of Lytton village, the B.C. town and area which saw more than 200 buildings destroyed in an intense 2021 fire.
The effort is expected to be joined in May by On Side Restoration, doing clean-up for insurance companies, which has been performing some work in the village area since the June blaze were quelled.
The clean-up and remediation consist of three burned areas: the Lytton village area, the First Nations lands, and homes located in the Thompson-Nicola regional district. Some work has been completed: 50 home sites on the First Nations lands have undergone remedial work; five of the village’s public buildings have had debris removal and the hospital site has had debris removal. Work is now progressing on debris removal within the village area while the regional district is carrying out assessments on homes outside the village boundaries and will coordinate its own remediation.
“I don’t think anyone find this a normal situation,” said Matcon project manager Chris Brown as the fire destroyed 90 per cent of the homes. It is the largest B.C. town fire clean-up since the 1886 Vancouver fire that destroyed 600-1000 buildings.
“Kelowna and Barrier have lost a portion of their communities in fires,” said village project manager James Heigh of Colliers Project Leader, but they retained town buildings and records to rebuild from. Lytton saw all that vanish in flames. “It is a hard project,” said Heigh as there is no guide for re-building a community from scratch.
The rebuild, though, has fostered a tremendous sense of public and contractor support, say those involved.
“Everyone has taken the intent to heart that they want to bring the town back to a liveable state and maybe even a better one,” Brown said, while On Side Restoration project manager Tim Hedrick said he is proud of the work his company has been able to contribute to date and will be working towards bringing residents back to their community.
A bright spot has been the 50 Lytton First Nations (LFN) sites which now are set to rebuild. Matcon, won the contract from the LFN to complete the remediation work on reserve areas 17 and 18, two of 56 reserves in the Lytton, earlier this year and was then contracted by the village. The village did not carry out a bid and tender process, as it does not have the infrastructure in place to carry out such processes, it noted in council minutes.
Matcon is the village’s designated prime contractor with the IBI Group serving as the qualified profession providing the environmental consulting work on sites and contaminates. The village awarded $250,000 as a 10 per cent retainer to IBI on a $2.5 million contract while a $350,000 award was approved to Matcon clean up the remains of the village’s fire hall, public works building, museum, visitor information centre and swimming pool, and for time and material placeholder costs for private property clean-ups as permission is granted. Matcon has completed the surface debris at the municipal buildings plus debris removal of at 10 additional private properties under the original contract with further contract negotiations underway.
Matcon is focusing on uninsured properties in village’s seven designated clean-up zones. The village’s debris clean-up and remediation are estimated at $8-$10 million.
On Side’s Hedrick said his company is handling remediation on approximately 70 properties that are insured or under-insured but delays for heritage site assessments have occurred as well as getting signed contracts relating to the properties. He said he hopes that the work, with On Side using its own contractors, will be underway in May and he may utilize some contractors in place. “We are a team player,” he said.
On Side Restoration has provided a range of support services over 2021 and 2022 including hazard mitigation, site security, and last fall had equipment on site removing debris from the Interior Health’s medical facility and other areas. “We have removed 600 appliances from the site,” said Hedrick.
Matcon’s crew are all undergoing asbestos awareness and handling training, Brown said. “When we get going full swing, we will have 15 to 20 people on site and four or five excavators.”
“The fire left a mixing pot of problems from asbestos to lead,” said Doug Younger, WorkSafe BC manager, Prevention Field Services, as well as structural safety concerns in building ruins. Emergency Management BC crews identified those problems prior to contractors going onto sites. As the work is progressing now, contractors are required to develop a plan setting out mitigation procedures for sites and addressing any safety concerns for employees. Those regulations also extend to trucking of contaminates to landfills.
The non-contaminated materials are being directed to Boston Bar’s landfill, which began receiving debris April 1 while contaminated materials, the majority of the debris, is destined for Wastech Service’s Campbell Hill landfill at Cache Creek. Heigh said the disposal costs represent a significant portion of the village’s clean-up costs, taking 30-50% of the remediation budget.
Lytton mayor Jan Polderman has set a deadline of September to have the remediation done on the village properties. The clean-up is being done in phases. A.E.W. Limited Partnership is monitoring archaeological and historical values. A.E.W. was formed by the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council (NNTC). Once debris has been removed, identified contaminated soils will be removed. Finally, the building foundations will be removed, again under the watch of A.E.W.
The Matcon work on village’s homes began the first week of April. “The work is now progressing along First Street and moving to Second Street, said Polderman, in a south to north direction as winds in the area blow south to north.
Polderman said the village has been working on writing new bylaws relating to construction and will provide better fireproofing to buildings, including open spaces around structures to eliminate fuel loading and extreme heat.