Providing key info, meteorologists important asset for fighting wildfires

MERLIN, Ore.– While crews battle fires from the air and from the ground others are waging a different kind of battle from afar.

At the Incident Command Post in Josephine County, members from the National Weather Service are providing analysis and relaying vital information for the front lines. For one local meteorologist from the local station in Medford, it’s an important job.

“Weather is one of the most difficult elements to predict,” said Tom Wright.

As Incident Meteorologist for the command post waging a battle against the Garner Complex Fire, Wright is an important asset of the team.

“It’s one of the most variable conditions that we have on fires and it’s one of the big factors that drives the fires,” he said. “So it’s very important to have meteorologists on the fire.”

Wright’s day-to-day may not be as intensive as the fire crews but the information he provides could be the difference between life and death.

“The number one priority for the incident meteorologist out here is safety,” said Wright. “We want to make sure the weather doesn’t come up and bite anybody. You know, some big event that comes up that wasn’t foreseen.”

For nearly twenty years Wright has been covering fires not just in Oregon but states as far as Florida, giving him a pretty good idea on predicting how weather will affect fires.

Even giving him the ability to make a prediction for this upcoming week.

“Thunderstorms potential starting Sunday down in the Siskiyous and Cascades,” he said. “We think those are gonna miss our fires but other fires in the area could be affected but it’s another ‘watch out’ situation for all of us.”

It’s grueling work in it’s own way but as long as nobody gets hurt, Wright says it’s gratifying.

“I feel like if nobody gets hurt by the weather, everybody goes home safely and the weather never hurt anybody then I’ve done my job.”

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