BOISE, Idaho — As the threat of wildfire season looms, experts prepare to forecast fire-specific weather at the National Interagency Fire Center.
This week more than 100 meteorologists from around the country gathered to become key support during a wildfire battle — incident meteorologists.
During wildfires, command teams include National Weather Service Incident Meteorologists, or IMETS, who need to be specially certified. That’s in order to keep their technological skills up to date and handle quickly-changing dynamics of a raging fire. At the annual week-long training, they study how fire reacts to different weather conditions, fuels, and topography like complex mountain terrain.
According to Kari Fleegel, NWS Incident Meteorologist with more than 20 years of experience, the elite field is growing in popularity and need.
“We’re seeing warmer, drier conditions, and definitely a need for more folks, more Incident Meteorologists to be out in the field tying in with the incident command teams and protecting people," Fleegel said.
After 225 hours of training in the classroom and on-site, these specialists get deployed on large fires throughout the region.
Fire season is growing and conditions are shifting. Last year, IMETs were deployed to a record of 217 incidents.
“The burn window, or the peak season, has lengthened considerably," CalFire Forester and Fire Jonathan Pangburn told Idaho News 6, “changing climate is a little bit different in that it is impacting the vegetation, the flammable material or the fuels, that are going to burn because they're just drier than they used to be."
This means these specialized experts are more needed than ever, an IMET was already deployed to California last month.