Operational preparedness is important when planning for hazards faced by communities, including wildland urban interface fires. Activities that contribute to developing operational capabilities, improving effective disaster response and reducing the vulnerability of community members are important when planning for wildfires. These activities can take various forms, including the development of standard operating procedures for response, training response personnel, and improving access to public information and communications systems. Penticton is a municipality of approximately 37,000 people located in the Okanagan valley in central British Columbia. The community was threatened by a wildfire this year and several other communities in the area, like Kelowna, have suffered wildfire losses. The City of Penticton is a popular tourist destination, and a wildfire could lead to a catastrophic economic impact on the community.
As the threat from wildfire grows for communities located in the wildland-urban interface, beginning in 2016 the City of Penticton, British Columbia, has taken a leadership role in training, citizen participation, and the integration of geographic information systems in wildfire preparedness. The Okanagan Valley in the interior of British Columbia is no stranger to wildfires. The dry climate and abundance of flammable coniferous trees has led to many high-profile wildfire events in the area. The then-incoming fire chief recognized the need to streamline training and information services among local and provincial firefighting services as they often were required to work together but often had separate training and incident command systems. The symposium that Penticton hosted on firefighting services for wildfires was attended by firefighting professionals from across the province and also included attendees from other provinces and territories. This symposium, as sweepingly successful as it was, was but one feature in a multi-pronged approach to improve overall operational capacity. This was supported by the development of a WUI-fire pre-incident plan, and extensive mapping and data digitization effort, and the implementation of programs to get citizens involved in protecting their homes, properties, and communities from wildfire.