Mount Christie fire in Penticton August 2020. (BC Wildfire Service)

Mount Christie fire in Penticton August 2020. (BC Wildfire Service)

Lessons learned from the Christie Mountain fire in Penticton

Report outlines where improvements can be made next time there is a wildfire

The lessons that were learned from the Christie Mountain fire were collected into a single report.

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen was presented with the after-action report on Feb. 4 on the wildfire and the response to it.

Ally Emergency Management provided the report, which gathered the input of over 500 people.

The fire was discovered on Aug 18, 2020, and forced evacuation alerts and orders that affected over 4,000 homes, all while the RDOS was in the middle of dealing with the ransom-ware attack on their IT network.

COVID-19 made fighting the fire even more difficult, with over 200 firefighters from 50 departments and the BC Wildfire Service attacking the fire. At its peak, the fire spread out over more than 2,000 hectares of land.

One of the successes in the report was that the fire did not result in a loss of life, and only one home was lost to the fire.

The report listed 10 major items of importance with attached recommendations that had come up repeatedly during the after-action investigation.

  • Establishing a joint Emergency Operations Centre between the City of Penticton and the RDOS
  • There was a shortage of liaison officers during the fire, particularly for coordinating with BC Wildfire, and they lacked standards of procedure and training. More, trained, multi-agency liaisons are needed.
  • There were times where the number of agencies involved in the situation made communication difficult, and the recommendation is for a multi-agency training session and development of communication protocols.
  • Provide better guidelines for the volunteers who staff the Emergency Reception Centre to provide better communication and understanding.
  • Improve training and develop better multi-agency training exercise programs.
  • Expand the training and inclusion of disaster psychosocial services for future incidents.
  • Build a team specifically to consider and manage how COVID-19 impacts large-scale events and responses.
  • Develop redundant and stand-alone systems, in case of potential further cyberattacks.
  • Continue training with the Evacuation Registration and Assistance program as it is updated by Emergency Management British Columbia.
  • Quick wins such as adding an additional laptop, better identifying reception centre leadership, assembling go-bags for liaison officers and identifying vendors who could produce and deliver food to responders.

The fire was declared no longer an imminent threat to residents on Aug. 31 by the RDOS’s Emergency Operations Centre, and the after-action report noted that some of the areas identified for improvement might have been resolved if the situation had continued.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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