A new satellite allowing detection and monitoring of wildfires from space is estimated to launch by 2025.

One of the leaders on the project, Josh Johnston, is based out of the Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

"It's important to start it now because we're going to need it tomorrow… when you're trying to fight a fire, you need to know very specific things about the fire. Where is it? How big is it? How fast is it moving? Which direction? You know, what sort of ways can I suppress that fire? The satellite is actually going to provide all of that information," said Johnston.  

Johnston, a former fire ranger, is working alongside federal agencies, provincial fire managers, international universities and local computer scientists on this mission for the Canadian Space Agency called 'WildFireSat'.

He says that climate change is causing more forest fires, and the old methods of fighting the fires won't be enough.

"The way it was when I fought fire was different than when my father did it, and my sons will fight fire in a very different world than when I did. And so this sort of thing is all about the next generation," said Johnston.

The satellite, which will be about the size of a dishwasher, will have sensors to measure heat released from wildfires. It will also collect data that can be accessed in near real time.

Algorithm Engineer Alan Cantin said the satellite "will help improve fire detection for all of the agencies right at that peak burn time of the day. And the intent is to get it to them as quick as possible so we're aiming for about 30 minutes and that's something that they haven't done in the past."

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

"Having a really strong bit of situation awareness where we understand what's going on… the big picture in this country in real time… that's going to be key to the next generation of fire fighters," said Johnston.

Johnston says this satellite is the first of its kind, and while it's specifically designed to monitor wildfires in Canada, it could also be used in other parts of the world.