Playing with Fire

The 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Fire near Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada burnt thousands of hectares of land and destroyed many of the historic railway trestles in Myra Canyon. A total of 239 homes were lost, but miraculously not one death was attributed to the fire. At the time fire officials were hard-pressed to control the flames, and with many lessons learned from that blaze, the local residents and officials feel that today the region is better prepared for whatever Mother Nature can throw at them, according to an article by

Lessons Learned

The most important lesson learned during the 2003 fire was the importance for communicating with the public on what was happening with the fire. This critical communication piece led to the public being better informed of the fire fighting efforts, as well as of the loss of property. Other lessons learned included the need for more personnel in the emergency operations center during the beginning of a crisis, especially local mapping experts. Those who know the area well can help in the dispersion of key personnel to where they can do the most good.

Another critical response area is dealing with the eventuality that certain technology that can help greatly facilitate a better response to a disaster might not be available. This includes cell towers or other forms of communication. One option in such a case includes the use of ham radios. This means that every resource has to be tracked and accounted for, even those not-so-obvious ones. That way when the inevitable happens, officials are prepared to act without hesitation to make adjustments as necessary.

Moving Forward

In future scenarios, one area that Kelowna officials wish to focus on is the protection of key infrastructure in the area. This includes what to do when drinking water, sewers, roads, and electricity are impacted in any way. It is situations such as these that keep the emergency planning of the region in an ever-evolving state, as officials strive to improve their planning on a daily basis.

For more information about how to implement lessons learned from a disaster into planning and response, visit: