Travel to the frontlines of a wildfire with NOAA Incident Meteorologists
September 20, 2022 -- To date, the U.S. has seen more than 50,000 wildfires resulting in nearly seven million acres burned in 2022. Organizing resources and crews to fight wildfires is an enormous undertaking. Today, more than 15,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to wildfire incidents across the country. Among the crews are specially trained meteorologists with NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), called Incident Meteorologists (IMETs).
When there is a large wildfire, an IMET is often deployed to the fire incident command post. IMETs provide critical fire weather information to wildfire management teams so they can map out the safest possible tactics for firefighters, while also generating immediate and short-term spot forecasts needed for fire suppression. NOAA has approximately 100 IMETs and IMET trainees that are stationed at NWS forecast offices throughout the country, ready to deploy.
We captured IMETs in action at several wildfires in the West during the last two weeks of August, 2022. Take a visual journey with NOAA’s IMETs as they travel to the fire line to provide critical weather data.
Goal: Keep firefighters safe
Long days and nights
Clearing a path
Communication is key
Wildfires blaze across the West
Wildfire impacts go beyond acres burned
A team effort
Eyes in the sky for firefighters on the ground
Due in part to the impacts of climate change, there is no longer an official “fire weather season,” as wildfires now occur year-round in the U.S., burning more intensely and scorching more land than in years past. As a result, demand for IMET expertise has increased. This year, NOAA more than doubled the number of new trainees to the IMET program to ensure the agency is ready to support firefighting efforts with a highly trained cadre of specialized meteorologists.