Amateur Radio Volunteers Active in Latest Round of California Wildfires

The massive Thomas Fire in Southern California has consumed more than 230,500 acres, and the emergency has caused residents in fire-threatened areas to evacuate. Amateur Radio volunteers remain active supporting communication for American Red Cross shelters in Ventura County. More evacuations are likely, although the need for Amateur Radio assistance remains dynamic.

Cal Fire said today (December 11) that evacuation operations will occur ahead of westward fire growth, speeded by low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds, which will push the fire further into Santa Barbara, County. One of several fires that have broken out across Southern California, the Thomas Fire is far and away the largest.

Ventura County Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS)/ARES activated a week ago to support Red Cross shelters there, providing communications between shelters. Radio amateurs also have deployed to the Ventura County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). ACS/ARES expects to be deployed while shelters are open. According to ARRL Ventura County District Emergency Coordinator Rob Hanson, W6RH, the ACS/ARES volunteers are staffing four evacuation centers, in addition to the EOC.

Santa Barbara Section Manager Jim Fortney, K6IYK, told ARRL, an Amateur Radio digital network (ARDN) MESH video network has been live streaming images from several sites, as long as the network remains up.

“Loss of primary power has required using the solar power backup capabilities, but, unfortunately, the heavy smoke has made that backup less than fully reliable,” he said. In addition, some sites are down because of power outages, and at least one hilltop site was overrun by fire.

“The Santa Barbara District ARES organization works closely with Santa Barbara County OEM [and] is prepared to support any requests as the Thomas Fire continues to burn into Santa Barbara County,” Fortney said.

Rich Beisigl, N6NKJ, reported that the Fallbrook Amateur Radio Group and other groups in the North County (San Diego) are providing communication at some evacuation centers, and the Red Cross has activated its Amateur Radio group. He said a group in Carlsbad also was providing shelter communication support.

In addition to power loss to repeater sites, solar panels charging off-grid batteries have been affected by the huge plumes of smoke blocking the sun.

ARRL Los Angeles Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF, said little official use of Amateur Radio was made during the fires in her Section. “All city and county governmental radio systems, commercial cell phone networks, and landline phone systems operated normally throughout the three fires in Los Angeles County, with just a few minor power outages of short duration.” At one point, the ARES-LAX Northwest District was very briefly in standby mode when it was thought that power might become intermittent at a hospital in the Santa Clarita area.

Feinberg said the City of Los Angeles Fire Department ACS opened a net for any traffic resulting from the small Skirball Fire, which claimed a half-dozen expensive homes and shut down a major freeway during the morning commute. 

Credit: ARRL



Posted in Article | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Amateur Radio Volunteers Active in Latest Round of California Wildfires

Sikorsky Delivers Two S-70i™ Black Hawk Helicopters to the Los Angeles County Fire Department

COATESVILLE, Pa., Dec. 13, 2017  — Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, delivered two S-70i™ Black Hawk helicopters to the County of Los Angeles at a ceremony in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The S-70i Black Hawk helicopters will be customized to a Firehawk™ configuration to meet L.A. County Fire Department’s specifications and further protect lives and property 24/7.

A Firehawk helicopter performs aerial firefighting and additionally, can plan missions and direct other firefighting aircraft, and provide emergency medical service transport, search and rescue, and logistic support. Once modified by a specialist outfitter in 2018 with a 1,000-gallon (3,785-liter) water tank, extended landing gear, single pilot cockpit layout and a medically-equipped interior, the new aircraft will increase to five the L.A. County Fire Department’s fleet of Firehawk multi-role helicopters.

Compared to LA County’s three existing S-70A model Firehawk aircraft, the S-70i variant includes wide chord rotor blades for increased payload and maneuverability, enhanced engine power, a stronger airframe, a digital cockpit with flight management system for enhanced situation awareness, and an Integrated Vehicle Health Management System to monitor the aircraft’s operational health.  Among improved safety features, the S-70i aircraft includes a terrain and obstacle avoidance system that alerts aircrew to the proximity of potential hazards on the ground.

“We are very happy to take delivery of these two new Firehawk aircraft,” said Thomas Ewald, deputy fire chief of L.A. County’s Fire Department’s Air and Wildland Division. “With the recent catastrophic wildland fires in L.A. and the Southern California region, the need for additional effective firefighting resources, such as the S-70i Firehawk, is readily apparent.  These two additional aircraft will enhance our existing fleet and strengthen both our day and night aerial firefighting capability, ultimately improving our ability to protect the lives and property of our citizens.”

“The Firehawk helicopter is born from an S-70i Black Hawk because of its proven and robust military design, which enables it to endure the enormous physical stresses required to drop 1,000 gallons of water multiple times a day on the fire line,” said Dan Schultz, president of Sikorsky. “The advanced Firehawk platform is a third generation Black Hawk with increased engine power, speed, maneuverability, higher altitude operations and improved mission availability. We stand behind L.A. County and will continue to support them during their critical missions, ensuring they continue to save untold lives and properties with our Sikorsky products.”

The L.A. County Fire Department was the first municipal organization to purchase the Firehawk in December 2000. 

Source: Lockheed Martin

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Sikorsky Delivers Two S-70i™ Black Hawk Helicopters to the Los Angeles County Fire Department

Marines Practicing Full-Scale Air, Sea and Ground Assault on Southern California Bases

Marines with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214 remove ordnance from an AV-8B Harrier II at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 29. Marines prepared several Harriers to support Winter Fury 18, which spans several locations including Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, MCAS Miramar and MCAS Yuma, Ariz. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nadia J. Stark/Released)

CAMP PENDELTON  — A war game exercise that deploys a battalion-size air, sea and ground assault is playing out across Marine Corps bases in Southern California this week.

The exercise, which includes more than 20,000 Marines from the 1st Marine Division and more than 600 Marine aviators and their crews, is taking place at San Clemente Island, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Camp Pendleton and at the Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

It combines the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s “Winter Fury” exercise with the 1st Marine Division’s “Steel Knight” training. Both are held annually to prepare Marines for worldwide threats and to sharpen their skills for upcoming deployments. But the combined exercise is the first in more than a decade, military officials say.

“We are setting up a full command structure within the wing that will command and control all our assets flying in the air space that is real and virtual,” said Col. Michael Borgschulte, assistant Wing Commander for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which has units at Camp Pendleton, Miramar and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. “We are doing command and control integration with the 1st Marine Division.”

The exercise at Twentynine Palms, re-creating a battalion air assault to establish an air field and refueling center behind enemy lines, trains Marines and sailors in planning, deployment and command and control against an enemy force with similar capabilities.

The size and scope of the training makes it unique, Borgschulte said.

“We’ll move a full battalion via aviation into Twentynine Palms and establish an airfield there using upwards of 40 aircraft,” said Borgschulte, who at 48 has been in the Marine Corps for 27 years and is a trained Cobra pilot.

The exercise includes F/A-18 Hornets, KC-130J Super Hercules, AV-8B Harriers, MV-22 Ospreys, AH-1Z Vipers,  UH-1Y Venoms, CH-53E Super Stallions, MQ-9 Reapers, MQ-21 Blackjacks and drones.

While Marines, sailors and aviators operate in the air and on the ground, commanders are running their command and control center from tents in the desert. Communication between aviation and ground forces and the center is critical, Borgschulte said. Typically, these units work independently.

“We will be fighting as a Marine Air Ground Task Force where we integrate and combine arms” using all resources, Borgschulte said.

In the wake of a recent spike in non-combat training mishaps, Borgschulte and other commanders are putting the safety of their Marines at a premium, he said.

The number of on-duty Marine ground and aviation training mishaps per 100,000 Marines this year is 10.49, up about 60 percent from 2014, according to data from the Naval Safety Center.

“Whenever we have a large-scale exercise, we have a lot more hours that go into the preparation of the aircraft,” Borgschulte said. “The more flying we do, the more proficient our crews are. Our most valuable asset is the individual Marine. Everything we do supports that.

“Anytime we have an incident it’s tragic,” he said. “In the investigation, we go back and see the causal factors and what needs to be corrected.”

The exercises will end Friday.

Credit: Orange County Register


Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Marines Practicing Full-Scale Air, Sea and Ground Assault on Southern California Bases

Baywatch Wannabe? Suspect Steals Lifeguard Pickup Truck at Dockweiler Beach

A 39-year-old man was in custody Saturday on suspicion of stealing a Los Angeles County Fire Department lifeguard pickup truck at Dockweiler Beach.

The theft occurred between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Authorities recovered the red 2015 Toyota Tacoma Friday and arrested Jared Gowens on suspicion of felony grand theft auto, police said.

A motive for the theft of the local law enforcement vehicle was not immediately disclosed.

He was arrested Friday.

Credit: City News Service

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Baywatch Wannabe? Suspect Steals Lifeguard Pickup Truck at Dockweiler Beach

LAFD Deploys Drones for First Time to Survey Damage, Patrol Hotspots in Skirball Fire

The Los Angeles Fire Department deployed its drones for the first time to survey the Skirball Fire near Bel-Air on Dec. 7, 2017.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas announced the move in a Thursday morning press conference, and by late afternoon two drones had conducted reconnaissance at the north end of Moraga Drive for about 30 minutes in their first official voyage, the department said.

The drones allow the department to get a birds-eye view of property damage in the fire’s aftermath and allocate resources to smoldering areas threatening to flare up, according to Terrazas. “We are very, very proud of that new technology,” he said Thursday.

The department purchased eight drones through its foundation but hadn’t used the equipment before because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified the program only two days ago, Terrazas told radio station KPCC in an interview Thursday.

One of the drones was used to get visuals of property damage while the other located hotspots, allowing firefighters or a water drop to be dispatched to the exact location where they were needed, he told the station.

The Skirball Fire was holding at 475 acres and 30 percent containment Friday afternoon and residents had begun returning to their homes, though firefighters stressed they were still monitoring hotspots that could flare up under a red flag warning in place through Sunday.

Terrazas expects the department will find additional applications for the aerial vehicles once the program moves forward.

The eight drones cost about $50,000 altogether but will replace the more expensive alternative of renting an infrared camera and flying it in a helicopter, he told KPCC.

The agency began the process of gaining FAA approval in June amid outcry from those concerned about citizen privacy, the Los Angeles Times previously reported.

All firefighters hoping to conduct the drones will need a pilot’s license, Terrazas told KPCC, but 70 firefighters have already obtained the certification.

Credit: KTLA, LAFD

Posted in Article | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on LAFD Deploys Drones for First Time to Survey Damage, Patrol Hotspots in Skirball Fire

Russia Offers to Help Fight Wildfires by Stationing Aircraft in Santa Maria

As wildfires sweep across the state of California, Russian Federation officials have offered their aid in the form of amphibious, firefighting airplanes called Be-200s, which could be mobilized in 72 hours, according to a Santa Maria airport official. 

If an agreement is finalized, Russia’s Beriev Be-200s would be utilized in the firefights and would be stationed at the Santa Maria Public Airport, said David Baskett, president of Santa Maria-based International Emergency Services.

“Russia and the U.S. have a handshake agreement on sending the Be-200s here to help on the fires,” Baskett said Friday afternoon.

Specifically, officials from the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Affairs for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are involved in the discussions about Russia’s offer of aid, he said.

In an email to Baskett Friday night, however, a FEMA representative said the federal agency has received no offer of assistance from EMERCOM.

“I have received numerous emails forwarded to me where you have contacted Cal Fire officials claiming that FEMA has accepted offers of assistance from EMERCOM,” J.P. Henderson, regional counsel FEMA Region IX, wrote in an email to Baskett. 

“I have verified with our HQ International Affairs office that these claims are false. No offer has been made to FEMA,” Henderson wrote.

Baskett, who is also a Santa Maria Public Airport District director, said he stands by his information. He said he started receiving phone calls about the offer at about 4 a.m. Friday and spent most of the morning working with Russian and U.S. emergency management officials, as well as Cal Fire, on the details of the offer. 

The Russian Federation’s Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov also sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown to offer his government’s assistance.

“We in Russia are worrying about (the) situation with the extensive forest fires occurring in California,” Manturov said in his letter to Brown, which was shared with the Santa Maria Times.

No word has been released on Brown’s response.

The Be-200 is a water-scooping, firefighting aircraft that has a wingspan of 108 feet, a flight range of 2,051 miles, a top speed of 435 mph and weighs more than 60,000 pounds.

It can drop 3,170 gallons of water on a blaze in just a few seconds. 

The aircraft, which has been used to fight fires all over the world, is also equipped with tanks to drop fire-retardant chemicals or a mix of water and the chemicals.

The Be-200 is able to quickly fill its water tanks by flying along the surface of a body of water and can utilize both fresh and ocean water to fight fires. 

If Russia’s offer of assistance is approved, leaders at the Santa Maria Public Airport will be ready. 

“The Santa Maria Airport is fully operational and able to accept anything the Forest Service or Cal Fire wants to bring in, as long as the aircraft meets the category of aircraft we are designed for,” said Chris Hastert, Santa Maria Public Airport general manager. “The Be-200 definitely falls within our design category.”

He added the only aircraft the airport can’t handle are 747s, because they are too big for the airport’s taxiways.

“We have space and we have a hotel,” Baskett said, referring to the Santa Maria Radisson. “We are blocking rooms right now. We will be prepared.”

If approved, the Russian firefighting aircraft and their crews could arrive early next week.

The Be-200s have been to Santa Maria before as part of Baskett’s effort to bring the amphibious aircraft’s production to Santa Maria.

Baskett has been working on the effort for about a decade, and if all goes according to plan, International Emergency Services and its partners could bring 500 jobs to the city with its production and maintenance operations at the Santa Maria Public Airport. 

Credit: Santa Maria Times (

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Russia Offers to Help Fight Wildfires by Stationing Aircraft in Santa Maria

UCLA Partners with LA-RICS on Ambulance for Stroke Victims

UCLA partnered with Los Angeles County and Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) to launch a program that delivers time-sensitive treatment to stroke victims.

As part of the first phase of a pilot program, the specialized ambulance unit and highly trained personnel began responding in September to select 911 calls in Santa Monica in coordination with the Santa Monica Fire Department.

With support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the unit’s range will soon expand to other parts of Los Angeles County, possibly including Compton, Carson, Long Beach and Westwood. Ultimately, program organizers hope, the unit will operate in other areas of the county and may be the first of a fleet of four to nine units serving the entire county.

A mobile stroke unit is a unique type of ambulance equipped with a mobile CT scanner, which allows doctors to diagnose and treat strokes in the field with appropriate medications. Within the unit are a mobile blood-testing laboratory, as well as a neurologist, critical care nurse, CT technologist and paramedic. Patient data is collected and secure medical information is sent over the wireless LA-RICS public-safety broadband network to a stroke neurologist at UCLA Medical Center for diagnoses and subsequent treatment.

In the initial phase of the pilot program, a neurologist specializing in stroke treatment will be riding in the unit. As the program develops, however, a neurologist will oversee care more efficiently via a live video and voice connection from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The UCLA unit is the first such unit to operate in California. It will be the West Coast anchor of the first national demonstration project to gather data on the degree of improved patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness with accelerated field treatment. Positive results from the study could enable the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other insurers to reimburse emergency medical service and hospital systems for mobile stroke clinical activities.

The design, build and clinical rollout of the unit were supported by a philanthropic donation to UCLA by the Arline and Henry Gluck Foundation. “Helping make this mobile stroke unit possible for the people of Los Angeles, and to support the research into this type of care, is such a privilege,” said business executive and philanthropist Henry Gluck, who is also chair of the UCLA Health System Board. “Through this, we can save lives today, while improving care in the future.”

This past summer, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to provide additional funding of nearly $1.5 million to enable the state-of-the-art vehicle to operate every week, instead of the original plan to operate every other week and to extend the life of the pilot program from 18 to 30 months. The additional funding also will increase the geographic reach of those served by the unit and enhance the quality of data gathered through the project.  

“Minutes matter when it comes to treating strokes,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who wrote the motion for funding. “With a mobile stroke unit operating in L.A. County, doctors will be able to diagnose and treat stroke patients faster than ever before — making it more likely that they not only survive but go on to live longer, healthier lives.”

The motion passed by the Board of Supervisors specifically directs funding to expand the stroke unit program. The funding will come from Measure B, a county parcel tax dedicated to supporting emergency and trauma services.

“Santa Monica is proud to be a partner in bringing this life-saving resource directly to our residents and neighbors when minutes count,” Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer said. “The Santa Monica Fire Department has embraced this partnership from the beginning and we’re thrilled to see the mobile stroke unit launch.”

Credit: Mission Critical Communications (via Khalil Ladjevardi, SCMA Member), and UCLA Newsroom

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on UCLA Partners with LA-RICS on Ambulance for Stroke Victims

Hermosa Beach Fire Department to be Disbanded

The Hermosa Beach Fire Department will be disbanded on Saturday, December 30, 2017, at 8 am. Firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department will start protecting Hermosa Beach at that time.

Hermosa Beach will be the 59th city which is contracting with the county fire department for firefighting protection and paramedic level emergency medical protection.

The current Hermosa Beach fire station will be re-designated county fire station #100. Station 100 will have 2 vehicles. Squad 100, a county paramedic squad truck will have 2 firefighter paramedics. Engine 100, a county paramedic assessment fire engine will have 3 firefighters — a firefighter paramedic, a captain, and an engineer. The Hermosa Beach city government will contract with a private ambulance company to transport emergency medical patients to the hospital. A firefighter paramedic will ride in the ambulance with the patient if the patient needs continuing medical care on the way to the hospital.

Squad 100 will be a paramedic rescue squad truck with 2 firefighter paramedics. This truck is similar to the one which was featured in the television drama, “Emergency!”. Squad 100 will not have pumps, hoses, or ladders for fighting fires.

Engine 100 will be a paramedic assessment fire engine with 3 firefighters — a firefighter paramedic, a captain, and an engineer. The crew of Engine 100 can perform many, but not all of the functions of a 2 person paramedic team. A unit with 2 firefighter paramedics will be dispatched to medical emergencies, simultaneously with Engine 100. Engine 100’s crew can perform many of the functions of a paramedic team, while they are waiting for the other paramedic unit to arrive. Engine 100’s crew does not have enough firefighters to fight interior structure fires by themselves, although they can team up with other firefighters to fight interior structure fires.

The Hermosa Beach city government had the option of paying more money in order to have a paramedic engine based in Hermosa Beach. Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic engines have 4 firefighters. Two of those firefighters are firefighter paramedics. The other 2 firefighters are the captain and the engineer.

If the county firefighters from the Hermosa Beach fire station are tied up for more than 30 minutes, the county fire department will send another unit to the Hermosa Beach fire station to be available for handling emergencies.

The Hermosa Beach Fire Department currently participates in some mutual aid agreements with other fire departments in the South Bay area. The county fire department will participate in those agreements.

The county fire department will hire any Hermosa Beach firefighter who has passed probation with the city fire department, who passes a county background check, and who passes a medical exam. However, some of them will work at other fire stations. The city fire chief will not go to the county fire department. The city fire chief was already retired and was only brought back on a temporary basis. It is not known if the Hermosa Beach Fire Department’s civilian employees will join the county fire department. The Hermosa Beach Firefighters Association supported the decision to merge the 2 fire departments.

The county fire department will only buy one vehicle from the Hermosa Beach Fire Department — a 2014 Pierce “Velocity” Type I fire engine — which is painted a non-typical, wine red-over-white color scheme. The county may charge the Hermosa Beach city government for the cost of buying a new paramedic squad truck to station at the Hermosa Beach fire station.

The website for the Hermosa Beach Fire Department has several documents including an unsigned copy of the merger agreement and a feasibility study by the county fire department regarding the proposed merger.

Several decades ago, the county fire department had a different fire station which was numbered “Station 100”. That fire station was in an unincorporated area, near the city of Vernon. Eventually, the city of Vernon annexed the unincorporated area, and the Vernon Fire Department used the fire station. Vernon originally called their new fire station “Station 4”, but Vernon has renumbered its fire station since then.

Los Angeles County Fire Department ocean lifeguards have already been protecting Hermosa Beach’s coast for many years. At least a few of those lifeguards are on duty 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Hermosa Beach currently has its own police department, but there has been some speculation that the fire department contract might open the door to having the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department replace the Hermosa Beach Police Department. The Los Angeles County government operates a branch library in Hermosa Beach. Most cities in Los Angeles County, including Hermosa Beach, utilize the county health department for protection.

Credit: Dominick Falzone, SCMA Member


Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Hermosa Beach Fire Department to be Disbanded

Can’t Call For Help? You Can Text 911 in Emergency

The Southland’s 911 emergency-response system entered the smart-phone era Friday, with residents across most of Los Angeles County now able to send a text message to 911 if they are unable to call for help.

The Text to 911 system is aimed primarily at hearing- or speech- impaired residents who might not be able to call 911, but it is available to anyone who might be in danger but unable to make a phone call.

“It is important that all residents are able to contact police, fire and emergency medical services when needed,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “Texting is widely used to communicate, so it only makes sense that we allow residents to use this technology, Text to 911, for emergency services as well.”

Long Beach officials said people texting 911 should ensure that the phone’s location services are enabled. Text messages should be brief, and should not contain abbreviations, slang or emojis. For now, the service is only available in English, Long Beach officials said.

The first text message sent should contain the location, a short description of the emergency, and the type of help needed. The sender should be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 dispatcher.

“Text to 911 is an exciting technological step forward for the LAFD and the people of Los Angeles,” Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said. “It provides the public with a new way to activate the 911 system if making a voice call is not an option and it provides a valuable service to deaf and hearing-impaired individuals.”

The LAFD noted that it has been testing the system since early October, and the agency responded to two 911 texts — one was a domestic violence assault in progress and the other was a medical emergency at a bus stop witnessed by a hearing-impaired person who sent the message for help.

Reggie Harrison, Long Beach director of disaster preparedness and emergency communications, said that despite the availability of texting, “I want to remind everyone that calling 9-1-1 remains the most effective method to access emergency personnel.”

Although the service is available across most of the county, officials with the sheriff’s department office in the Santa Clarita Valley said texting to 911 is not yet available in that area, and urged people to continue calling in the event of an emergency.

Credit: City News Service


Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Can’t Call For Help? You Can Text 911 in Emergency

California Wildfires Show the Value of Old Tech

When cell coverage goes down, it’s all ham radios and sirens to the rescue.

Wildfires that killed nine people in a remote Northern California county last month also crippled landlines, cell phones, and internet service, the local sheriff said Thursday, saying the disaster shows old-fashioned sirens and ham radios have a place in emergencies.

Failures of modern technology can cost “all connectivity to the world,” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said at a news conference. When lives are at stake, “we need to notify people immediately that this is a real disaster, we need to get out of here.”

Nine of the 43 people who died in the devastating Northern California wildfires that began Oct. 8 were in Mendocino County, in an area called Redwood Valley, although other valleys and areas also burned in the county at the same time.

The Los Angeles Times, citing interviews and a review of dispatch calls, reported Monday that the county appears to have waited more than an hour after fire was first reported in Redwood Valley to order evacuations there. The report said numerous residents called 911 to report that they were trapped.

Allman did not specifically address the report Thursday or whether the communications failures slowed evacuation efforts.

However, he described the hectic first hours of the wildfires, when dispatchers fielded countless emergency calls and law enforcement officers struggled to grasp the scale of fires surging around the area, as dry gusts drove embers and flames for miles.

“They’ve never taken this many calls before,” Allman said of local dispatchers. It was “the largest fire situation … in California history,” he said referring to the fires that encompassed several counties.

At the request of authorities, the area’s utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, cut power in the first hours of the fires, out of concern that sparks would ignite still more blazes, Allman said.

Cell phones and internet service failed for many and CalFire lost “a good portion of its phone lines” in Mendocino County, the sheriff said.

Instead, emergency workers drove through neighborhoods ordering residents out over bullhorns and knocking on doors.

Ham radio operators, meanwhile, volunteered for work in the disaster, helping to coordinate the transportation of victims to hospitals, he said.

Allman pledged to streamline the chain of command for ordering automated cell-phone alerts, or reverse-911 calls, to make it easier for individual law officers to order them.

The sheriff also urged authorities to reconsider civil-defense sirens, staples of the World War II-era that have fallen into disuse in recent decades. Many areas have taken down the sirens because of complaints from residents about the noise associated with testing the devices.

At a minimum, “I hope Mendocino County can take a step back and reposition air raid sirens,” Allman said.

Credit: Associated Press


Posted in Article | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on California Wildfires Show the Value of Old Tech