Wildfire crew in Beaufort Delta

Wildfire operations

Detecting wildfire

How are fires detected?

Wildland fires in the Northwest Territories (NWT) are detected and reported through a variety of methods.

General public

Many wildland fires in the NWT are detected and reported by the general public. Public wildfire reports have resulted in immeasurable savings in property damage, forest resources and fire suppression dollars.

If you see a wildfire, please report it at 1-877-NWT-FIRE (1-877-698-3473).

When reporting a wildfire, provide the following information:

  • your phone number
  • location of the fire
  • whether there are lives or values at risk
  • what is burning (trees? what species?)
  • size of the fire
  • how quickly the fire is spreading
  • colour of the smoke

The details you provide are critical in determining the type of response the fire will receive from fire suppression authorities. Your help is greatly appreciated, as it helps allocate resources more efficiently and quickly determine the appropriate response to wildland fire activity.

Air patrols

Air patrols, consisting of a pilot and trained aerial observers, fly predetermined routes over remote areas during periods of high fire danger, or following lightning activity. Commercial and recreational pilots also report wildfires.

Infrared technology

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) uses both ground personnel and aircraft with thermal imaging technology to assist in fire operations. Thermal imaging can be utilized for detecting hot spot and areas of residual fire on larger fires during mop up, boundary establishment, fire mapping and fire progression.

Computer technology

The GNWT has an advanced fire management computer system used to:

  • obtain current weather information
  • determine the location of lightning strikes
  • predict the probability and location of wildfires
  • predict how a particular wildfire may spread and at what rate
  • measure the amount of moisture in the fuels on the forest floor and in the deep soil

Lookout stations

One of the ways fires are detected is by lookout stations. These are situated at a location with extensive visibility and have associated structures manned by a lookout observer whose prime purpose is to locate and report wildfires.

A network of five lookout stations are spread throughout the NWT.

Role of lookout observer

The lookout observer provides early detection and accurate reporting on the location, observed behaviour and weather conditions of all potential forest fires within an assigned geographic area, and continued observation on the progress and behaviour of wildland fires until fire control personnel arrive at the fire location.

If you are interested in becoming involved with the lookout program, contact your local or regional Environment and Climate Change (ECC) office