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Meteorologists and first responders gather in Boise to coordinate and train for wildfire responses

A close-up of an embroidered National Weather Service Incident Meteorologist patch on a jacket. The logo is blue and orange, with flames and a lightning bolt across it.
Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio

About 60 meteorologists from across the country gathered in Boise for a training on how to help first responders fight wildfires safely.

National Weather Service Incident Meteorologists, or IMETs, are dispatched on missions throughout the year to help firefighters respond to increasingly longer wildfire seasons across the country.

Matt Jeglum with the Science and Technology Infusion division said the training is both about technical and communication skills.

“We're learning how to give effective video briefings,” Jeglum said, “we're learning how to set up automated weather stations, how to launch weather balloons in the field. We're learning how to effectively communicate probabilistic information.

“We're doing a lot of things that basically are just helping us to help people make good decisions on the fire line,” he added.

Jonathan Pangburn is a Fire behavior analyst with Cal Fire. He traveled to Boise for the training to share feedback with meteorologists on how to share complex info with people on the ground.

“This really gives them an opportunity to figure out what the situation might look like before they're really thrown into it,” Pangburn said.

“It's an invaluable program, and this is the least we can do to help support them since they support us every time we ask,” he added.

IMET Jeglum added there is a big snowpack in most areas of the western U.S. this year which could potentially delay the onset of the fire season.

There are currently 82 certified IMETS in the country, with 32 additional trainees. Since 1987, they’ve responded to an average of 116 missions a year. 2021 holds the record at 217 missions.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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