National Wildfire Coordinating Group

6.8 Intersection

Intersection is a method of locating a point on a map by intersecting lines from two known landmarks on the ground. Intersection is one method fire lookouts use in determining the location of a fire. The procedure is as follows:

  1. From the first position, point 1, take a compass reading of the object or fire.
  2. Adjust for declination.
  3. With a compass or protractor, plot this azimuth on the map.
  4. Draw a line from point 1 beyond the point of the object or fire.
  5. Move down the road to a second position, or radio to the second person's location and get that azimuth reading. Repeat steps 2 through 4.
  6. A third and maybe a fourth reading will help further describe the location.
  7. The object or fire is located where the individual lines cross.

Example 1 - Tom is at a lookout tower at point A. He spots a fire and takes a compass reading. The magnetic azimuth is 277°. He radios to John at tower B, who tells him his magnetic azimuth on the fire is 337°. The declination for the area is 16°E. Plot the lines to find the location of the fire. 

Step 1. Convert the magnetic azimuths to true azimuths by adjusting for declination (see Section 6.5).
277° + 16° = 293°
337°+ 16°= 353°

Step 2. Draw the lines of the azimuth from each point well past the fire.

2 lines crossing

Step 3. Read where the two lines intersect to get the location of the fire.