Wildfire crew in Beaufort Delta

Wildfire operations

Operations and Incident Command

During fire season

During the fire season (May 1 to September 30) there is a daily briefing session, led by the Territorial Duty Officer, with participation from the Regional Duty Officers, aviation services, and information/communications officers. There is also a daily weather briefing.

The Territorial  and Regional Duty Officers make strategic decisions about air tanker positioning, alerts and crew placement based on weather, fire occurrence and fire danger.

Wildfire incident command

Wildfire operations in the NWT use the Incident Command System (ICS) to make sure there is a common approach to managing wildfires.

ICS is used across all jurisdictions in Canada – and in many around the globe – to manage many kinds of emergencies and events.

This common standard for managing emergencies is important. It allows wildfire agencies to easily move staff around to different jurisdictions to meet big challenges.

Learn more:

Imports and exports

Almost no jurisdiction can keep enough staff on at once to manage an extraordinary wildfire season.

That’s why wildfire agencies help each other out. Every year, NWT wildfire staff and equipment can be found in provinces across Canada, and sometimes even countries around the globe. When we need it, aircraft, equipment and staff will come North to help keep our communities safe.

Wildfire agencies use the same kinds of equipment, facilities, and emergency management approaches to make sharing staff and equipment as easy as possible. It’s an essential part of the national wildfire management strategy. 

During the off-season

Managing wildfire is no seasonal gig. Full-time staff work year-round to make sure the NWT is ready to rise to any challenge.

The time between seasons is spent behind-the-scenes – getting important training done, overseeing research, analyzing the latest trends in forest management and wildfire, working with communities on forest management and fire prevention, development of decision support tools, and most of all, planning for success the next time around.

Health and safety

To ensure the safety of firefighters and staff, and the communities they serve, there are protocols in-place to support:

  • Training
  • Safe fireline work practices and injury prevention
  • Hazard Assessments
  • Safety Briefings and Debriefings
  • Hazard and Incident Reporting
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Infectious disease
  • Mental wellness
  • First Aid
  • Fit for Work Requirements
  • Fatigue Management
  • Harassment and Workplace Violence

These protocols are part of the territory’s wildfire safety management culture.


Here’s how we get timely, accurate, useful information to folks throughout the wildfire season.

Daily wildfire updates

During wildfire season, daily updates on wildfire danger, status, and recommendations are published online, shared on social media, and provided to reporters and stakeholders.

Wildfire information officers

Wildfire Information Officers may be assigned to wildfires or complex fires to be the voice of the incident response – getting timely, clear information to communities, media, businesses, and individuals using any means necessary.

They may provide materials like maps, bulletins, or other information to locals or travellers in the area, give updates to Indigenous governments and organizations and community leadership, keep in-touch with business-owners and land-users in the area, and give interviews to media.

Public safety alerts

GNWT departments work together with community governments and other organizations and agencies to monitor and respond to potential threats to public safety, communities and critical infrastructure in the NWT.

Social marketing and awareness

Preventing human-caused wildfire means changing behaviour. We run year-round campaigns designed to change behaviours and encourage folks to make the right decisions on fire prevention and FireSmart principles.

Outreach and education

Fire Management Staff visit schools, campgrounds, and high-traffic areas across the territory to remind folks about wildfire safety and prevention, and get important information to land-users whenever necessary.

Ever seen one of the famous yellow collapsible buckets? They were given out by wildfire staff!


Wildfire operations are headquartered in Fort Smith. Regional operations are run out of  Inuvik, Norman Wells, Yellowknife, Fort Simpson, and Fort Smith.