forest fire conditions and restrictions
Forest fire activity is common in the Northwest Territories from June through September. Forest fire smoke can present significant risk to general aviation as it can quickly diminish visibility to below VFR minimums both vertically and horizontally. Conditions can be extremely localized and change rapidly. Suppression efforts often depend on air attack and support including water bomber activity on nearby lakes.
Wildland fire updates are issued as the fire situation and conditions in the Northwest Territories require and are posted online at NWT Wildfire Updates and on the NWT FIRE Facebook page. A live fire map provides current information respecting the location and status of active fires. Information specific to aviation can be found in the Wildland Fire Airspace brochure published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Pursuant to section 601.15 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations, no unauthorized person is permitted to operate an aircraft over a forest fire area, or over any area located within 5 nautical miles of a forest fire, at an altitude of less than 3,000 feet AGL. These restrictions apply without issuance of a NOTAM irrespective of the presence of suppression aircraft.
Pursuant to section 606.16 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations, a NOTAM may be issued to further expand or restrict airspace in the vicinity of a fire. This action is taken to ensure adequate separation of aircraft when a particular fire requires an abundance of aviation resources to support suppression efforts. Pilots should check for applicable NOTAM's prior to flying in the vicinity of wildfires.