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National Weather Service Incident Meteorologists

Fire fighters and meteorologists are gearing up as fire season approaches across the Western U.S. Since 1914, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists have worked closely with fire control specialists from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal, state, and local fire control agencies responsible for suppression. The NWS employs a small group of approximately 50 experienced and certified Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) that are dispatched to remote locations to support wildfire operations. Special training in microscale forecasting, fire behavior, and fire suppression operations makes these fire weather forecasters key members of fire incident management teams.

IMETs use special equipment in preparing critical forecasts used in wildfire suppression and prescribed burning projects. One of these tools is the All-hazard Meteorological Response System (AMRS) which enables forecasters to operate at the incident command post, providing close meteorological support to the suppression efforts. The AMRS can be used throughout the country wherever wildfire, chemical spills, and other catastrophes threatens life, property, or other valuable resources.

These IMETs can deploy rapidly with portable forecast and communications equipment to provide critical fire weather forecasting support. The forecaster sets up the portable unit near the fire lines and provides critical information that helps fire managers decide where to move fire crews, learn about incoming weather, plan tactics, and provide for fire fighter and public safety.

IMET Briefing

IMETs typically provide weather forecasts at the morning and evening crew briefings as well as the strategy meetings for each shift.

IMETs work closely with the National Forest Service’s Fire Behavior Analyst (FBAN) to provide the latest weather information that might impact fire behavior and suppression tactics.

Looking At Data

Satellite Internet Dish

The All-hazard Meteorological Response System utilizes portable two way satellite technology to access a continuous stream of current weather information.

IMETs use laptop computers to access information from local and national NWS offices. Surface observations, upper air observations, Doppler Radar, and weather satellite pictures are used to make specialized forecasts. Daily coordination calls are used to discuss forecasts with local NWS offices and other IMETs that may be working other fires in the area.

Relaying Weather Data

Portable RAWS Weather Station

FireRAWS are portable weather stations that continuously measure temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction. These units also include observations of fuel temperature, fuel moisture, solar radiation and precipitation. In addition, the upgraded units include GOES satellite communication capability so the data reports can be accessed via the Internet. The FireRAWS are placed in a safe location near the fire to provide the IMETS with reliable and continuous weather information. Field observers also take weather readings on the fire line. This helps in understanding how topography influences the weather.

Viewing the fire from a safe distance helps the meteorologist adjust their forecast to the variable terrain.

Looking at Smoke Plume

Camp Site

IMETs live in fire camp just like the rest of the firefighters. One of the fire camps for the Chediski-Rodeo Fire was at a school in Cibeque. Smoke can be seen billowing from the fire in the background.

US Dept of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Flagstaff Weather Forecast Office
P.O. Box 16057
Bellemont, AZ 86015-6057

Tel: (928) 556-9161

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