Northwest has 110 wildland firefighters stationed at bases across the fire centre.
The key to the B.C. Forest Service's success is finding fires when they are still small.
Northwest Fire Centre
The Northwest Fire Centre is responsible for forest fire protection within the Prince Rupert Forest Region. The region covers a quarter of British Columbia, from Prince Rupert to just west of Endako and from the Yukon border to Tweedsmuir Park. It is over 25 million hectares in size, consisting predominantly of pine and spruce trees. Balsam can also be found in the higher elevations with hemlock and red cedar becoming more prevalent along the coast.
For the purposes of protection, the Queen Charlotte Islands are also included within the bounds of responsibility for the Northwest Fire Centre (NWFC). The Queen Charlotte Islands are included because it is geographically and logistically easier for the Northwest to respond to fires in this area than it is for any other fire centre. Major communities encompassed in the Northwest area are Burns Lake, Dease Lake, Smithers, Terrace, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, and Queen Charlotte City. It is important to note, however, that when it comes to forest protection there are no real boundaries. The closest available crews will always respond, regardless of where the fire is located. In an average year, the Northwest Fire Centre responds to 200 wildfires which burn 3700 hectares.
The Northwest has 110 wildland firefighters stationed at bases in Burns Lake, Telkwa, Smithers, Hazelton, Terrace, and Kitimat. Over the course of the summer these firefighters are strategically placed in various locations to respond to wildfires throughout the Northwest, depending on where the fire hazard is the greatest. Bases have also been set up in Dease Lake, Atlin, and Watson Lake to accommodate crews that are fighting wildfires in the northern sections of the region. The NWFC, located at the Smithers airport, is the operational headquarters for responding to fire calls and relocating these firefighters.
One of the most well known weapons in the fight against forest fires is the air tanker fleet. The NWFC has air tanker bases in Smithers, Terrace, Dease Lake, and, through a cooperative agreement with the Yukon Forest Service, Watson Lake. Air tankers fly over fires that have the potential to escape initial attack capabilities and drop fire retardant ahead of the fires. This helps to curtail the spread and to cool the fires, allowing crews on the ground to attack them more aggressively. Without such measures, some fires could burn so hot it would be unsafe for crews to fight them.
Lookout towers are located on mountain-top vantage points throughout
the province, often overlooking high-quality timber stands or
forests bordering communities. They are staffed during periods
of high fire danger and are connected to fire centres by two-way
radios. The Northwest has 29 lookout towers.
Computer technology allows all fire centres to obtain current
weather information, determine the location of lightning strikes,
and predict the probability and location of wildfires. Information
for such prediction is received from the Northwest's 35 weather
stations. Computer technology also helps predict
how a particular fire may spread and at what rate and helps measure
the amount of moisture in the fuels on the forest floor.
The key to the B.C. Forest Service's success is finding fires when they
are still small. This requires fast detection of wildfires, before
they have an opportunity to grow. The public is our most important
detection source, reporting one third of all wildfires. This is
more than any other singe source, proving that everyone has an
important role in protecting B.C.'s forests from wildfires.
To report a wildfire simply dial (toll free) 1-800-663-5555. To hear up-to-date information about what is happening at the Northwest Fire Centre or anywhere else in the province, call our toll free wildfire information line at 1-888-3FOREST (336-7378). This number gives information about wildfire locations, campfire restrictions, smoke advisories, and other wildfire-related information.