As Wildfires Rage, NOAA’s Fire Weather Meteorologists Provide Tailored and Timely Forecasts

Date Posted: August 19, 2015
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More than 40,000 fires have burned over seven million acres in the U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), making this year one of the worst wildfire seasons so far. Residents in many western states have been evacuated from their homes as hot, dry, and windy conditions fuel active fires.

Firefighters battling these blazes are not working alone. Specially trained meteorologists known as Incident Meteorologists, or IMETs, provide weather forecasts critical to fighting these fires. This year, NOAA has deployed 100 IMETs to support fire managers. Recently NOAA had a record 42 IMETs in the field in a single day, setting a new record for wildland fire weather support.

Having the latest information about incoming weather patterns that could affect the characteristics of a given fire is vital to planning wildfire suppression efforts and ensuring firefighter safety. IMETs provide this support on-site and tailored to a specific incident. Fire weather forecasters can produce timely forecasts of wind direction and speed using a mini weather forecasting station designed for field use.

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NIFC, which NOAA is a partner, is operating under National Preparedness Level 5, the highest level. At this level, fire managers can tap more federal and state employees for fire mobilization as needed. Currently, nearly 30,000 people are supporting fire managers on active wildfires in ten states -- California; Colorado; Idaho; Louisiana; Montana; North Carolina; Nevada; Oregon; Texas; and Washington. Although Alaska’s wildfires have stabilized due to cooler and wetter conditions, damage was considerable - over five million acres burned across the state.

Learn more about NOAA’s IMETs (PDF). Also, go behind the scenes with NOAA’s IMETs in this video, and see how multiple federal teams coordinate to fight wildfires at the National Interagency Fire Center’s website.

Be prepared before a wildfire comes your way. Find more information at weather.gov/wildfire.