Detecting wildland fire
In this section
Wildland fires in the Northwest Territories (NWT) are detected and reported through a variety of methods.
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
- what is burning (trees? what species?)
- size of the fire
- how quickly the fire is spreading
- colour of the smoke
- whether there are lives or values at risk
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, consisting of a pilot and trained fire-spotter, fly predetermined routes over remote areas during periods of high fire danger, or following lightning activity. Commercial and recreational pilots also report wildfires.
In their initial stages, wildland fires are not always visible by normal means. 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 spot fires and areas of residual fire on larger fires, boundary establishment, fire mapping and fire progression.
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
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 seven 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 wind 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.
Observers must possess a good deal of stamina to be able to stand for much of the day and endure extended periods of intense, concentrated observation of the surrounding country.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the lookout program, contact your local or regional Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) office.