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Jackson forecasters travel the country to help put out wildland forest fires

When you turn on the local news and see reports about forest fires raging in different parts of the country, someone from the Jackson National Weather Service (NWS) Office may be out there providing weather forecasts to the firefighters.

The Jackson Weather Office has three forecasters who are certified as incident meteorologists (IMETs). This is the only NWS office east of the Rockies that has three IMETs. The IMETs assigned to the Jackson office are John Jacobson, Jon Pelton, and Tony Edwards.

In the five NWS offices surrounding Jackson, there are only three IMETs. An IMET is meteorologist specially training

to respond to many different types of emergencies. The most common emergency an IMET responds to is a large forest fire, but they also might be called upon to respond to oil spills, toxic releases or a variety of natural disasters. Jon Pelton has gone in the past to help with the space shuttle recovery as well as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

This has been a busy year for the IMETs at the Jackson Weather Office. Tony Edwards and Jon Pelton both worked at fires in the Okie Fanokie swamp in May and June. The Okie Fanokie swamp is located in southern Georgia and northern Florida. Tony then went to fires in central Idaho and at Yellowstone in July. John Jacobson was sent to the Sleeper Lake Fire on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in July, while Jon Pelton went to the Sawmill Complex Fire in Phillipsburg, Montana in late July/early August.

Deployments usually last for two weeks and the IMETs typically are working 15- to 16-hour days to provide the weather support required to decide how to fight the fires and to protect the lives of the firefighters.

Looking at the drought conditions in the Appalachians this year, this is probably not the last deployment for the Jackson IMETs.

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