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Dozens of incident meteorologists gather in Boise to get ready for upcoming fire season

National Weather Service incident meteorologists gathered in Boise this week for training in preparation for the upcoming fire season.
Murphy Woodhouse
/
Boise State Public Radio
National Weather Service incident meteorologists gathered in Boise this week for training in preparation for the upcoming fire season.

Weather is one of the most important factors influencing the behavior of wildfires, and it falls to National Weather Service incident meteorologists (IMETs) to provide responders with up-to-date forecasts. With fire season not far off, dozens of these meteorologists gathered in Boise for an annual training this week.

In some ways, the 2024 season is already off to a rollicking start, with fires in Texas burning the equivalent of around half of all of last season’s acreage. IMETs were deployed there, according to one of the head trainers. Bladen Breitreiter is an Albuquerque-based incident meteorologist, and said climate change is only making the program more important.

“We had a fire literally a week or so ago that ate up a million and a half acres in two days,” they said, referring to those Texas blazes. “That's unprecedented stuff.”

Around a third of all certified incident meteorologists were on hand for the weeklong event, along with all trainees. Breitreiter said weather is the factor influencing fire behavior that changes most quickly.

“That's one of the most gratifying and fulfilling things about this job,” they said. “That we are tasked with keeping these people, these folks on the ground doing the hard work, the grueling work, keeping them safe and keeping them aware of what's going on.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As Boise State Public Radio's Mountain West News Bureau reporter, I try to leverage my past experience as a wildland firefighter to provide listeners with informed coverage of a number of key issues in wildland fire. I’m especially interested in efforts to improve the famously challenging and dangerous working conditions on the fireline.

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