The City of Penticton has a history of frequent wildfires, including the 1994 Garnet Wildfire and the 2020 Mt. Christie Wildfire. The region itself can be characterized as a wildfire-prone environment – with seasonally warm summers and local dry fuel types. As the city expands, neighbourhoods continue to spread into the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).
After completion of various fuel mitigation projects throughout the city, Chief Larry Watkinson (Penticton Fire Department) had a vision of continuing wildfire mitigation efforts within the WUI through the implementation of a FireSmart Team. Much of his concept was based on the successful wildfire mitigation teams in Colorado, USA, as well as Lindsay King’s role as a FireSmart Educator for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako. In 2021, he was able to make his vision a reality through the combined use of two Community Resiliency Investment grants – FireSmart Community Funding & Supports and the FireSmart Economic Recovery Grant.
The Penticton FireSmart Team, composed of a FireSmart Coordinator, FireSmart Team Lead, and two FireSmart Laborers, has helped establish a comprehensive FireSmart program throughout the City of Penticton. With two of the team members having received their Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (WMS) designations through the Home Partners Program, the team provides comprehensive home assessments to residents and advises them on the steps they can take to reduce their risk to wildfire. To further assist residents, the FireSmart Laborers can then be tasked to help those who meet the criteria with the recommendations made by the WMS. This can include helping residents with tasks such as removing hazardous fuels (i.e., cedar hedges) from within Zone 1 or moving combustibles (i.e., firewood) away from the home. As of January 31, 2022, the Penticton FireSmart Team has completed 100 Home Partners Home Assessments and supported the removal of approximately 18,250 kg of hazardous fuels from Home Ignition Zones.
The Penticton FireSmart Team has also been dedicated to providing public education. This includes industry stakeholders that have a role within the FireSmart disciplines. In October 2021, the team hosted a 2-hour presentation for builders & developers within the city, providing education on wildfires & the WUI, as well as FireSmart building materials. They also engaged with the landscaping industry by providing a FireSmart information session for landscapers, garden centers and nurseries. Additionally, they will be hosting FireSmart information booth days at local nurseries and garden centers participating in the FireSmartTM BC Plant Program in spring 2022.