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Local Forecasters Fighting California Wildfires

U.S. Forest Service
John Franks (left) and Ryan Fliehman (right) prepare a weather balloon at the Eclipse Complex fire.

Two forecasters from the National Weather Service's Wilmington office are helping fight wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.

John Franks and Ryan Fliehman are incident meteorologists and were called up to assist. Observing program leader James Gibson says the two are launching weather balloons, gathering information, and briefing firefighters.

"They're interested in numerous things such as: which way the wind is blowing, so they can tell if the fire's going to spread and which way it's going to spread, the heat index, obviously, because it's going to be hot. The smoke and visibility play a factor mainly for any aircraft that suppress fires with their chemicals," he says.

Franks and Fliehman are working near the Klamath National Forest in Northern California. They're working a series of fires, including one termed Eclipse Complex. It was started by a lightning strike around August 17, and as of September 5, had burned nearly 87,000 acres. The 858 fire personnel are battling the blaze.

Gibson says Franks and Fliehman received special training and are among the few incident meteorologists outside the Pacific Northwest. He says they went up to give local forecasters a break and should return home next week

Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.