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NOAA's IMET Chris Gibson at Clear Creek fire.August 8, 2000 — A ridge of high pressure, parked stubbornly over 11 Western states, is giving NOAA's National Weather Service forecasters—and weary firefighters—little hope that the dry, hot conditions, and parade of dry lightning storms will end soon. So far, these conditions have created a tinderbox-like environment, resulting in nearly 64,000 wildland fires, which have torched more than 4 million acres this year. The latest six-10 day forecast calls for continued high temperatures, low relative humidity and little, or no precipitation. (Click image for larger view.)

[NOAA photo coutesy of Scott Birch, NWS Western Region Headquarters. Photo Caption: NOAA Incident Meteorologist Chris Gibson from the NWS Forecast Office in Salt Lake City, Utah, was assigned to the Clear Creek fire complex located near Salmon, Idaho. Gibson is one of 40 IMETs who are trained in providing site-specific fire weather information to land management agencies. 07/24/00]

The total suppression costs submitted so far for only half of the ongoing wildland fires is running more than $50 million and wildland management agencies fear the current fire season could be the worst in 50 years. If the current activity continues, suppression costs could approach or exceed $1 billion for the year.

NOAA Satellite Image of Wildfires on Aug. 8, 2000.As of August 8, the National Weather Service had 21 Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) on site or en-route to assist other federal agencies with an increasing number of wild fires. NOAA's National Weather Service has assigned these special weather forecasters to work with land management agencies and firefighters to battle against blazes in several states. So far this year, the National Weather Service has dispatched IMETS to work the equivalent of 550 days on wildfires. (Click image for larger view.) [NOAA satellite image of wildfires on Aug. 8, 2000.]


Firefighters and resources throughout the West are being stressed, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Fire weather watches have been posted throughout the Northwest and Great Basin areas. Eight new large fires were reported in the Northern Rockies, Rocky Mountains, Eastern Great Basin, Southern California and Southern areas since Sunday.

Sixty-six wildfires in 11 states are classified as large wildfires and involve 866,012 acres as of August 8. (Click here for the Wildland Fire Update.)

Large Wildland Fires
Total Fires: 66
Total Acres: 866,012

As of August 8, nearly 64,000 fires have burned more than 4 million acres this year. This compares to the 10-year averages of 84,657 wildland fires and 2,236,951 acres annually. (Click here for latest geographic map.)

Number of wildland fires and acres affected in 2000 by geographic area
Updated (08/08/00 )

10-Year Average
84,657 = number of wildfires
2,236,951 = number of acres)


NOAA's Scott Birch prepares to launch weather balloon.Fire fighters know that adverse weather is one of the most dangerous hazards their crews face. That's why NOAA National Weather Service meteorologists are seen as a vital partner in keeping firefighters safe as the crews attempt to contain or suppress wildfires that rage across the United States each year. (Click image for larger view.)

[NOAA photo coutesy of Scott Birch, NWS Western Region Headquarters. Photo Caption: NWS Western Region Fire Weather Program Manager Scott Birch prepares to launch a small weather balloon at a site adjacent to the Burgdorf Junction Fire near McCall, Idaho. The balloon will measure winds up to 10,000 to 15,000 feet.]

The meteorologists are having a busy season issuing forecasts from their offices, providing briefings in interagency coordination centers, and site-specific forecasts at several of the fires.

Most offices in the NWS' Western region (Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) are directly or indirectly involved in fire support along with others in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. The meteorologists issue site-specific, timely forecasts of weather conditions.

The forecast offices are able to provide assistance to the agency's special cadre of
Incident Meteorologists, called IMETs, who are deployed to a specific fire's location. At the fire scene, IMETs give frequent briefings to the fire management team which relies on the information to know where to place firefighting crews and for tactical decisions how to fight the fire.

The IMETs are specially trained in mesoscale and microscale meteorology and employ a variety of special tools to prepare the forecasts that contribute to the safety of all personnel involved in management of the fires.

Since 1914, National Weather Service forecasters have worked closely with fire control specialists from a variety of federal agencies tasked with suppressing fires. The IMETs use laptop computers to access information from local forecast offices and use other special equipment in preparing critical information for wildfire suppression. The main tool used by IMETs is the 250-pound Advanced Technology Meteorological Unit (ATMU), which enables forecasters to operate at the fire command centers and provide close meteorological support to suppression efforts.

Relevant Web Sites
Updated forecast information is available on the home pages of local National Weather Service offices. These pages are organized by geographic regions of the country.

For additional information on the NOAA's Fire Weather Program, please visit NOAA's National Fire Forecasts, Offices and Outlooks, Boise, Idaho.

Latest NOAA Satellite Images of Fires


All About Wild Fires

NOAA's Fire Weather Program (Describes wild fire weather terms)

Fire Weather Forecasts from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma

National Interagency Fire Center — Includes latest news and glossary of wildfire terms

Media Contact:
Patrick Slattery, NOAA's National Weather Service Central Region, (816) 426-7621, ext. 621 or Marilu Trainor, NWS Western Region, (801) 524-5692 ext. 226.