Now more than ever, with wildfires burning on almost all sides of the valley, it’s imperative for those living in the Wildland Urban Interface region of the city to be proactive. Penticton is in a wildfire-prone region and has already had to contend with WUI fires, but the city’s FireSmart program is working to reduce risks to those regions. “Wildfires are definitely becoming more prominent in our area and these fires are becoming harder and more challenging to fight as we can see from what’s going on right now,” said FireSmart coordinator Shaloa Street. “We want people to utilize this (FireSmart) kind of prevention and mitigation strategies to prepare for these wildfires in our area. “These are the areas, where the forest meets the urban community, that those living there are definitely at a higher risk.” Working closely in conjunction with BC Wildfire, Penticton Fire Department and other agencies, the goal of the program is educating people about the dangers of not being prepared, which only compounds the potential for disaster. That includes presentations to schools and community organizations and being at special events. “We hope this is something that can prepare residents and provide them with things they can incorporate into their properties, into their daily lives, to help them become more resilient to those wildfires,” said Street. One of the program’s most effective methods of helping those residents is a free FireSmart home assessment. “We’ll have a mitigation specialist come to the property and they’ll provide you with some recommendations to make your home a little more resilient to wildfire in the chance that a wildfire did come through your area,” said the coordinator.
Involving the entire neighbourhoods is also a key factor in keeping residents as safe as possible through a special program. That includes a $500 grant and some supplies for FireSmart activities like vegetation clearing, which can be a significant fuel source for wildfires. According to Street, there is also the human safety factor in the event there is a fire. “We like to encourage people to work together as a community,” she said. “It’s important to talk to your neighbours and discuss mitigation efforts in the chance they were evacuated, especially if there is someone on the street who is a little bit older or doesn’t have a vehicle or lives alone. To have someone to go over and check to see if so-and-so got out of their home safely.” For more information on the program visit: penticton.ca/city-services/fire-services/penticton-firesmart
Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Penticton Herald