Tucson National Weather Service meteorologists help fight forest fires

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – During hot and dry Arizona summer days, a fire can start in seconds.

“I might get a call now saying that if there is a fire somewhere in the country I will be needed,” said Carl Cerniglia, chief meteorologist for the Tucson National Weather Service.

Cerniglia must be ready for use at all times. He works as an accident meteorologist for Tucson’s branch of the National Weather Service. When a fire breaks out, it is his job to keep an eye on the forecast.

“It’s the biggest impact on the fire. Humidity and wind are the main driving factors in where the fire goes, how fast it burns and what the fire looks like,” said Cerniglia.

The meteorologists of the National Weather Service or “IMETs” observe the weather in advance. The Tucson team provided first responders with predictions for the Mescal and Pinnacle fires this year and the Bighorn fire last year. While IMETs are typically dispatched to Arizona fires, they can also respond to incidents across the country.

“This time of year, in which we go from the fire season to the monsoon season in the southwest, is the most dangerous time. We had a lot of fatalities,” said Cerniglia.

IMETs will stay in the wildfire for up to two weeks, work 16 days, and ultimately help save lives.

“It’s a really good learning experience. It’s one where you really feel fulfilled with the information and expertise that you can give,” said Cerniglia.


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