Wildfire operations

How do we operate?

Where are operations located?

The Wildland Fire Operations headquarters for the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is located in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories (NWT). There are also regional fire operations in the Inuvik, Sahtu, North Slave, South Slave and Dehcho regions.

During the off-season

Wildland Fire Operations is busy all year around. When not coordinating and fighting wildland fires, the unit analyzes data from the previous fire season, and plans and prepares for the next. They oversee and stay abreast of research into fire behaviour and the latest wildland firefighting techniques. In addition, they recruit, hire and train fire crews for the upcoming fire season.

During fire season

During 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, air tanker and aviation services, and information/communications officers. There is also a daily weather briefing.

The Territorial Duty Officer, in consultation with the Regional Duty Officers, makes strategic decisions about air tanker positioning, alerts and crew placement based on weather, fire occurrence and fire danger.

Incident Command System

Wildland Fire Operations in the NWT has adopted the Incident Command System (ICS) and annually reviews its effectiveness on wildfire incidents.

Following exchange standards as developed and implemented by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, the NWT can effectively import and export resources as required.

What is the Incident Command System?

The Incident Command System (ICS) is "a standardized on-site management system designed to enable effective, efficient incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.

ICS in Canada

ICS Canada is the network of organizations working cooperatively to maintain a standard Incident Command System that enhances incident management response through improved interoperability.

In 2000, Canada assisted the USA with suppression efforts of some of the worst wildfires the USA had seen in years. This was the first exposure Canada had to the ICS.

ICS was first implemented in Canada on a large scale by the Province of British Columbia during the 1990s. In 2002, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), as part of its mandate to its provincial, territorial and federal members, introduced the CIFFC ICS Canadian Version doctrine and complete set of training materials to the wildland fire community across Canada (all provincial, territorial and federal agencies responsible for wildland fire management).

Communicating information about wildland fires

Public information about wildland fires is provided by Public Affairs and Communications, Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), located in Yellowknife, in coordination with the Wildland Fire Operations information officer in Fort Smith, and, when the situation warrants it, information officers assigned to specific fires. ENR Communications Specialists and Wildland Fire Information Officers are ICS-trained.

Fire situation updates

Updates on the NWT wildland fire situation are posted on the ENR website and on the NWTFire FaceBook page. The frequency of updates depends on existing fire conditions.

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.

To view alerts on public safety, community evacuations, fire, highway closures, air quality, fire bans and park closures, please visit Public Alerts on the GNWT main website.