Fires are raging in Alaska, and there’s no end in sight.
More than 600 fires have burned in excess of 1.8 million acres in the state, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, making this year the worst wildfire season so far in Alaska’s history. Fires have caused evacuations, highway closures, and rail and flight disruptions. More than 350 structures have been damaged, including about 70 homes.
Accurate weather forecasts are vital tools to fighting these fires, as are specially trained meteorologists on the ground known as incident meteorologists or IMETs. NOAA sends fire weather forecasters, or incident meteorologists, into the field to consult with firefighters.
Four NOAA IMETS deployed in Alaska are providing lifesaving, up-to-the-minute weather information and timely forecasts to firefighters and the public in range of the immediate fire area. With this critical weather information, incident commanders on the scene can decide where to move and position fire crews, as well as get the latest information about incoming weather patterns that could affect the characteristics of a given fire.
Approximately 100,000 wildland fires occur each year in the United States, capable of severe destruction and loss of life. Above-average temperatures and a longstanding drought in the western U.S. are contributing to wildfires occurring in parts of Washington, Oregon and California.
LEARN MORE: For the latest on fire weather in Alaska, see the NOAA National Weather Service Alaska Fire Weather page. You can go behind the scenes with NOAA’s IMETs in this video, and see how multiple federal teams coordinate to fight wildfires at the National Interagency Fire Center’s website.