Saturday, August 3, 2013

The IMET

Patrick Gilchrist, NOAA/NWS IMET on duty serving incident managers at The Lodgepole Fire.

An Incident Management Team (IMT) is a group of highly skilled professionals working to keep fire fighters safe, well supplied and successful in bringing containment and control to a wild land fire incident.

In addition to the Incident Commander, Safety Officer, Operations Staff, Division Supervisors, Air Ops and Helibase managers, Resource Unit Leaders, mapping specialists, and many other vital support staff, a key member of most IMTs is the IMET—the Incident Meteorologist.

There are currently 85 certified National Weather Service IMETs available to deploy at a moment’s notice to assist in wildfire suppression efforts.

Patrick Gilchrist (shown in photo) is the IMET serving on Team Adell's Type 2 IMT. Gilchrist is the Lead Forecaster for the Glasgow, Montana, NWS Office. He has served as an IMET for 9 years and worked as a professional meteorologist for 12 years. 

“I like being able to help people directly through my work,” Gilchrist said from his IMT duty station at the Challis Community Events Center.

The Lodgepole Fire is the first fire Gilchrist has worked this year. His previous IMET duty on an Idaho area fire was the East Roaring Fire north of Mountain Home in 2006. 

As Team Adell's IMET, Gilchrist provides accurate, on-site weather forecast, warning, and consultation services to help The Lodgepole Fire IMT and fire fighters work safely and effectively. He uses a variety of special tools to prepare weather forecasts that contribute to the safety of all personnel involved in The Lodgepole Fire management.

Gilchrist received his B.S. in Atmospheric Science from the University of North Dakota. He has also received special training in both mesoscale (large-scale) and microscale (the smallest) weather systems. Mesoscale phenomena include thunderstorms and squall lines, while microscale events could include air turbulence and dust storms. All IMETs are trained in fire behavior and fire operations, which make these fire weather forecasters highly valued members of an IMT.

An IMET starts each day by preparing the daily weather forecast for incident commanders and command staff. Next, the IMET presents a fire weather briefing to the command staff and firefighting crews. These critical briefings provide advanced information about wind patterns, thunderstorms, and humidity levels. Incident commanders have access to the IMET 24 hours a day, seven days a week during a wildfire event.

On The Lodgepole Fire, Gilchrist has access to five IRAWS weather data monitoring stations set up at various locations in the fire zone. Although, Gilchrist normally watches the same hourly IRAWS data available to the public online, he has capability to query an IRAWS unit by radio should more timely data be needed. The IRAWS site on Twin Peaks clocked a 56 mph wind gust at 5 pm on August 1.

Gilchrist keeps in contact with the Pocatello NWS Office as well as the IMET serving Poncin's Type 1 Team on The Gold Pan Complex Fire. Gilchrist will continue serving as IMET on The Lodgepole Fire until he rotates out on August 6.

Here are two links to learn more about the NOAA/NWS IMET program:


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