BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECASTERS SUPPORT FIRE MANAGEMENT
     NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists play a vital role in
supporting efforts to control wildfires that rage across the United States each year.

     Up-to-date weather information can be critical to fire fighting agencies.  Weather
and fuel conditions are key ingredients in fire behavior.  Accurate forecasts of wind
direction and speed help incident commanders make the best decisions to contain
wildfires.  NWS forecasters are specially trained in mesoscale and microscale
meteorology and employ a variety of special tools to issue forecasts that contribute to
the safety of all personnel involved in fire containment.  Routine fire weather forecasts
are issued twice a day (morning and late afternoon) during the summer fire season and
special site-specific, spot forecasts are prepared on demand.

     Since 1914, NWS meteorologists have worked closely with fire control specialists
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, the Department of Interior's
Bureau of Land Management, and other federal, state and local fire control agencies
responsible for fire suppression.  NWS forecasters monitor meteorological conditions
continuously and provide input critical to forming fire control strategies and
management of activities aimed at protecting people and valuable renewable
resources.  

     Specially trained NWS meteorologists called Incident Meteorologists (IMETs)
provide site-specific weather forecasts for wildfires of all sizes    from half an acre to
many thousands of acres. 

     The National Weather Service is an agency of the Department of Commerce's
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

ROLE OF NWS METEOROLOGISTS

In the NWS Office:

     In addition to routine fire suppression forecasts, NWS Forecasters issue timely
site-specific forecasts of weather elements possibly hazardous to crews on the fire line. 
Weather fronts can change wind speed and direction; dry thunderstorms can cause
downbursts, erratic wind conditions and dangerous lightning that can cause additional
fires.   Wind, humidity and temperatures near fires have significant effect on fire
intensity and firefighting tactics.
     Operational fire management teams are briefed regularly to help plan where to
place crews and strategy on how to fight specific fires.  Forecasters draw upon various
data sources such as computer-produced weather models, local weather observations,
and satellite imagery.  The local NWS office also provides specific meteorological
support to any IMET deployed to a fire location in its area of responsibility.
At the fire:
     Nationwide, the NWS employs a small group of approximately 40 experienced
Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) dispatched to remote locations to support wildfire
operations.  IMETs assist fire crew safety, provide tactical support to the fire
management team and provide weather forecasts to the Fire Behavior Analyst.  Special
training in microscale forecasting, fire behavior, and fire operations makes these fire
weather forecasters key members of fire management teams.

KEY EQUIPMENT DEPLOYS WITH IMETs

     IMETs use special equipment to prepare critical information for  wildfire
suppression.  The Advanced Technology Meteorological Unit (ATMU) is a 250-pound
miniature mobile forecast station complete with communications equipment, satellite
dish, laptop computer and observing equipment.  The ATMU enables forecasters to
provide close meteorological support to suppression efforts at fire command centers. 
Deployed rapidly, the IMET sets up the ATMU near the fire command center to provide
forecast information to help managers decide where to deploy firefighting resources. 
     IMETs use laptop computers to access information from local NWS forecast
offices.  They can receive the latest information about surface and upper air
observations, as well as Doppler weather radar and weather satellite data to make their
specialized forecasts. 
     Every year, IMETS are deployed to support hundreds of fires nationwide.  NWS
Forecasters help on-scene fire management teams obtain and interpret weather
information, train fire personnel on how weather may affect their operations during
critical fire situations, and ensure the safety of fire fighters.
INFORMATION ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB
Additional information on the NWS fire weather program, as well as links to the latest 2-
day fire weather forecasts from the Storm Prediction Center and local NWS offices are
accessible through the fire weather home page at:
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/fire.htm
Contact:       Gary Schmeling 816-426-3239, ext. 704             
               Patrick Slattery 816-426-7621, ext. 621

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