From left, Jonathan Finlay, a wildfire technician with B.C. Wildfire Service, and Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson organized the Wildland Urban Interface Wildfire Training Symposium in 2019. (Penticton Western News file photo)

Up to 300 firefighters expected back in Penticton for wildfire training

Penticton Fire Department hosts Wildland Urban Interface Wildfire training April 22-24

Up to 300 firefighters from around the province will be coming to Penticton for the Wildland Urban Interface Wildfire Training Symposium.

The three-day training is back April 22 to 24. The in-person version of the event had been cancelled for the past two years because of the pandemic. Virtual training has taken place since then with smaller in-person training days last summer held by Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson.

This symposium will once again be hosted by the City of Penticton Fire Department and will bring firefighters from over 20 jurisdictions across B.C.

“It’s very exciting to have it back in Penticton,” said Watkinson.

It will not only provide best practice training to fighting wildfires, it will also be a boost to the local economy with this many firefighters in Peach City, he added.

Residents can expect to see all sorts of training scenarios with helicopters, aircraft, alarms and simulated wildfires in Penticton, said Watkinson.

In 2019, the training included supervised burning and the deployment of firefighters, apparatus and aircraft in the Campbell Mountain, Sendero Canyon and West Bench areas.

Watkinson developed the curriculum for the symposium and has helped organize and host the firefighters in 2018 and 2019.

The Wildland Urban Interface Symposium is aimed to improve the response to wildfires. It involves BC Wildfire Service, municipal fire service staff and industry experts, he said.

The symposium and the curriculum is such a success that it has caught the attention of the B.C. government who is taking over the training programs, said Watkinson.

“We are pretty good at what we do here so why not share that knowledge,” he said. BC Wildfire has adopted the best practices from the wildfire curriculum.

As for the B.C. government taking over the programming, that is “huge kudos to Penticton Fire Department,” said Watkinson.

READ MORE: Expect to see wildfire smoke, helicopters and fire trucks in Penticton

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