Frequently Asked Questions


Where do you get your information?

We write our updates based on public information sources like official statements, scanner traffic, fixed and aerial photography, and more. When possible, we will provide a link to the official source of the information. We take the trust people put in us very seriously - we have a strict code of conduct that governs what kind of information we publish and how. Learn more about our code of conduct at watchduty.org/code-of-conduct
How do I enable or change notifications?
Open the app and press the three horizontal bars to the left of the words Watch Duty. That will open a menu on the left side of your screen. Select Notifications, slide the yellow slider to the right to enable push notifications, and check the counties you want to receive notifications for.

Why am I not getting notifications?
If you enabled notifications in Watch Duty (see above) but are not getting notifications, follow these instructions to make sure Watch Duty is allowed to send notifications.

For iOS:
1. Open iOS Settings and select Notifications.
2. Find Watch Duty.
3. Make sure "Allow Notifications" is on.

For Android:
1. Open Settings and select "Apps & Notifications".
2. Select "See all apps".
3. Scroll down, find Watch Duty and tap it.
4. Tap Notifications. Make sure notifications are enabled.

Can I make the notification sound louder?
You can change the volume of notifications in the Settings app on your phone. We don't currently have another way to provide louder notifications.

Do you accept donations?
We currently accept donations in the mobile and web app. In the left navigation menu you will find a link to donate. Thank you for your support!

Who writes the updates in Watch Duty?
We have recruited and trained Fire Reporters to post via Watch Duty. Visit watchduty.org/reporters to learn more about our reporters.

Why don't you report every fire in my area?
Watch Duty focuses on high-risk vegetation fires and fires that have the potential to become high-risk vegetation fires. We will typically not report on structure fires unless they spread to the vegetation. We will also not report minor fires that are classified by arriving first responders as having slow or no rate of spread within a small area, not threatening structures, and are expected to be handled quickly. We will sometimes post fires with negligible risk when there is obvious smoke visible over a large area or aerial resources are present that may be concerning to residents.

Why do notifications show up in Pulse Point and not in Watch Duty?
PulsePoint is a 911-connected app that lists all emergencies, including unconfirmed incidents that turn out to be not as reported. Sometimes incidents are called-in as vegetation fires but are either not fires (responders unable to locate) or very quickly controlled by responding units. Watch Duty strives to provide only confirmed information about potential wildfires. Because of that, we only report vegetation fires that we have confirmed. PulsePoint cannot, and is not intended to, provide that.

Why don’t you report on the causes of fire?
Our primary objective is reporting on fire activity and not cause. This is so people can have fast and accurate information in case the fire will impact them. Fire causes are often picked up official law enforcement agencies (which includes CALFIRE) with information not available to the public until the investigation is completed. This could be days, months or even years after the event has concluded. We would recommend you contact the agency in charge for additional information on specific fire causes for events you are interested in. 

How do I install Watch Duty on my iPhone/Android?
Please visit https://www.watchduty.org/ and click the correct store icon for your device. "Download on the App Store" for Apple devices, and "Get it on Google Play" for Android devices.

How long does a fire stay on the map after it's contained?
Fires that are marked 100% contained will stay on the map. Once all units are released the fire will be marked inactive. Inactive fires stay on the map for up to 48 hours before being removed.

Why are the incident "flames" on the map sometimes different sizes?
The size of the flame icon reflects the acreage of the fire. This is only a rough guide, to indicate whether a fire is small, medium or large.For very large fires that have an official CAL FIRE perimeter, we show the perimeter on the map as a red shaded area.

Can I use watch Duty if I don't have a smart phone?
You can visit us in any web browser at app.watchduty.org. You will not get notifications in your web browser, but all the fire information is the same as in the app.

What are the red areas on the map?
The red colored areas are the "Active Fire Perimeters", based on the official perimeters provided by CAL FIRE. You can turn these on and off with the layers button at the bottom left of your map.

What are the red dots on the map?
The red colored dots are the the latest hotspots detected by the VIIRS and MODIS heat-detection satellites. We do not have VIIRS and MODIS data for every fire. Where we do have data, this provides a good general sense for where the fire has been over the last 24 hours.

Why are some flame icons on the map gray?
All active fires have orange flames, and inactive fires have gray flames. We leave a fire active, even when forward progress is stopped. We inactivate it only once we hear the all clear, with units released.

What does ROS, IC, etc stand for?
Click here for a glossary of firefighting terms

How do I submit photos of fires to Watch Duty?
To submit photos of active fires, you must use the iPhone or Android Watch Duty app. On the top right of your app you will see a camera icon. Only take photos when you can do so from a safe location, without getting in the way of firefighters and other first responders. Type in a description of what you’re looking at and the location. Keep the description short, just the key information.Press submit when you’re done. Your photo will now be reviewed by our reporters, who will decide whether to post it along with the incident.

Why don’t I see my photo in Watch Duty?
The photos you submit are moderated by our reporters. We can’t include every photo we receive. Your photo might not have been reviewed by our reporters yet, or it might not be approved based on multiple factors, like whether we already have a similar photo.

Why is my current location not accurate?
When using a cellular phone, the accuracy of location services is dependent on how well your phone is receiving GPS signals. Depending on the type of phone you have and the construction of your home it may not work well indoors. It may work better near a window, or more certainly if you take your phone outside. It can take some time for each GPS satellite's signal to be recognized.

You may have also not given Watch Duty the ability to utilize a precise location, or location accuracy settings on your devices (android only) are not enabled, which can cause your location on the map to be off by a large margin.
Below are some resources that may help. The titles of these resources aren't fully descriptive, so please look through the links that are relevant to the type of phone you have.

iOS Devices
About privacy and Location Services in iOS and iPadOS - https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203033
Turn Location Services and GPS on or off on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch - https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207092

Android Devices
Help your phone get a more accurate location (Google Location Services a.k.a. Google Location Accuracy) - https://support.google.com/android/answer/3467281#location_accuracy

Find & improve your location’s accuracy - https://support.google.com/maps/answer/2839911?hl=en&co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&oco=1