National Weather Service meteorologist heads from Blacksburg to California to help fight wildfires

Southwest Virginia forecaster will assist with fires near San Francisco for the next two weeks

OLEMA, Ca. – Many who live on the U.S. West Coast are choking down smoke and evacuating from large wildfires that are spreading due to hot, dry and windy weather.

A meteorologist who helps forecast our local weather in southwest Virginia is there right now helping fight those fires.

His name is Phil Manuel and he’s been a specialist in fire weather forecasting for more than 20 years through the National Weather Service’s IMET program.

Manuel has been assigned to the Woodward Fire, which has been raging for about three weeks at the Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco.

IMETs have to quickly familiarize themselves with the terrain and climatology so they can give a forecast briefing to firefighters.

Warning coordination meteorologist, Phil Hysell, at NWS Blacksburg said this can be a big challenge.

“He’s going to be providing a very specific forecast for maybe a few hundred or few thousand acres for a very specific group that could change minute by minute," said Hysell.

There will be social distancing protocols in place for Manuel to deliver his briefings.

Manuel will have to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 before he can return to the NWS office in Blacksburg in two weeks.

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