Meteorologist plays unique role in fighting Australia wildfires

Local News

Wind direction can change and impact the way firefighters battle flames.

John Franks is an Incident Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Wilmington.

“When I go on a fire usually what I am doing is I am creating a forecast and I am giving that forecast specifically for the fire,” Franks said.

As an incident meteorologist Franks said he is usually on the ground in a tent working with firefighters directly on the fire line. He analyzes how the terrain is impacting the weather.

“As the sun goes from the east to the west it’s shading different areas and the heating is going to permit different types of air currents,” Franks said. “Knowing where the fire is on all those slopes allows me to have a better feel for what their working with.”

The National Weather Service and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology have a partnership that has allowed IMETs to help in each country since 2007. Franks received his passport and is preparing to go to Melbourne at the beginning of February. He will be in Australia for at least six weeks.

He has worked on dozens of fires across the United States. Typically IMETs work on two week shifts. This will be the longest time he will be away from his family.

“That may allow two or maybe three of their incident meteorologists to go out and embed with their firefighters on their forest land,” Franks said.

Franks expects to be inside working on the computers. He will be able to give a spot forecast for any location that needs one.

“It’s a source of pride for me, knowing that the information that I am able to go through, retrieve and give to these people is important and used,” Franks said. “Hopefully they’re able to stay safe and do the best job that they can.”

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