Wildfire Detection

Wildfires are detected and reported to the BC Wildfire Service through a variety of methods.

General Public

On average, 40% of the wildfires in BC are reported by the public, more than any other single source. Wildfires, dangerous activity that could start a wildfire and abandoned campfires should be reported toll-free to 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cell phone. Calls to these numbers are answered by operators at the BC Wildfire Service.

Air Patrols

During periods of high fire danger or following lightning activity, air patrols (manned by a pilot and a trained fire-spotter) fly predetermined routes over remote areas to detect new wildfires or make observations on remote, modified response wildfires. Commercial and recreational pilots also often report wildfires. 

Fire Wardens

Fire wardens are an important resource for detecting fires in areas of high fire risk. There are approximately 400 fire wardens located across British Columbia who are hired by the BC Wildfire Service on an “as-needed” basis during periods of heightened wildfire activity. Fire wardens may be delegated limited authority under the Wildfire Act to extinguish fires as well as assist in a variety of program areas such as fire operations, prevention and detection.

Infrared Technology

In the initial stages a wildfire may not always be visible by normal means. The BC Wildfire Service utilizes thermal imaging technology both from the ground and the air to assist with detecting spot fires and areas of residual fire on larger fires, fire mapping and monitoring fire progression.

Computer Technology

An advanced fire management computer system allows the BC Wildfire Service to;

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

Lookout Stations

Lookout stations are located in certain remote and prominent locations around the province. Although reliance upon lookout stations has steadily decreased over the years, a small number of locations are staffed occasionally during periods of prolonged fire danger.