NOAA News || NOAA Home Page


Jim Prange, National Weather Service Incident Meteorologist, checks winds and humidity on the road as the hotshot crew begins firing operations at the Icicle Fire complex near Leavenworth, Washington.August 20, 2001 — By Wednesday it could be one of those good news, bad news days for the nation's wildland fire fighters. "The good news is the Pacific Northwest will see less wind and slightly lower than normal temperatures Monday as the system of low pressure that brought breezy conditions to the Northwest over the weekend moves east into Montana and the Dakotas," said Larry Van Bussum, NOAA National Weather Service meteorologist assigned to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. (Click NOAA image for larger view. Caption: Jim Prange, National Weather Service Incident Meteorologist, checks winds and humidity on the road as the hotshot crew begins firing operations at the Icicle Fire complex near Leavenworth, Washington. Prange arrived at the Icicle Fire complex on Aug. 15 and is shown here Sunday afternoon at the 8-Mile Creek fire burnout at the fire complex. Burnouts help firefighters suppress wildfires by eliminating vegetation.)

"Another system is approaching from Mexico. However, very little monsoon moisture will make it into northwest Utah, so no dousing rains are expected there," Van Bussum said.

National Weather Service meteorologists are closely watching a large low pressure system expected to continue move slowly from the Gulf of Alaska toward the Northwestern United States midweek which will likely bring precipitation to Washington and Oregon. In other areas of the Great Basin and into Southern California conditions will remain warm with drier air expected to move into the southwestern deserts.

Current Weather Situation from the National Weather Service for Monday, Aug. 20, 2001:
The Pacific Northwest will see less wind and slightly lower than normal temperatures. The Dakotas could see some isolated dry lightning Monday afternoon.

Monsoon moisture over the four corner states (Utah-New Mexico-Arizona-Colorado) will bring scattered thunderstorms to the area as well as into southern Nevada and southern and eastern Wyoming late Monday afternoon.

Nineteen NWS Incident Meteorologists Currently Deployed to Fires
Forty large fires continue to burn in nine states with more than 28,500 firefighters and support personnel assigned to wildland fires. There are nineteen National Weather Service Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) deployed to fires in seven western states.

Jim Prange is the National Weather Service meteorologist assigned to the week-old Icicle fire that has burned 6,875 acres of the Wenatchee National Forest in the Cascade Mountains. The fire is six miles southwest of Leavenworth, Washington, where crews are making good progress toward containment objectives.

"I was tracking the weather. It was a very critical burnout and accurate weather information of temperatures, winds and humidity were necessary for a successful and safe burn out. With structures below, spot fires were of great concern especially with the winds westerly aloft. The burnout was very successful and safe with no fire spots into the structures," Prange said.

"We told the land management agencies at Friday afternoon's briefing they could expect better conditions by Sunday morning because both the temperatures and winds were going to decrease. Based on these forecasts, they planned their upcoming fire tactics and they were able to get a better handle on the fire," Prange said.

When he is not serving as an IMET, Prange is a forecaster at the NWS Forecast Office in Seattle.

IMETs Are There to Provide Site-specific Forecasting for the Wildfires
The elite group of 54 NWS Incident Meteorologists are trained in fire weather forecasting and how weather can impact fire behavior and crew safety. The meteorologists study the areas of the country that suffer from long-term drought conditions and know that means the likelihood of wildfires increases.

"The fire behavior analyst knows the fuels but they rely on us to know the weather," Van Bussum added. "The land management agencies know they can rely on us for accurate forecasts of wind direction and speed, temperatures and humidity. We help the fire's incident command team know what will happen with the winds, when possible moisture might happen and whether there could be lightning associated with these changing weather conditions. Knowing all of these weather factors, strongly influences fire strategy and helps incident commanders make the best possible decisions how to control wildfires."

National Weather Service forecasters use laptop computers to access information from nearby NWS field 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 specialized forecasts," Van Bussum said.

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 who are responsible for suppressing fires. Weather phenomena such as dry cold fronts can change the direction and speed of the wind; dry thunderstorms cause downbursts, erratic wind conditions and dangerous lightning.

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.

NOAA's Fire Weather Information Center

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

NOAA's Western U.S. Wildfires Summary — Includes maps

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:
Marilu Trainor, NOAA's National Weather Service Western Region, (801) 524-5692 ext. 226