173MHz MO/MO3 for CAL FIRE

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scannerboy02

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I have been following an FCC application for 173MHz mobile repeaters for CAL FIRE in the Del Norte, Siskiyou, Modoc, Humboldt, Trinity, Shasta and Lassen counties area. Is anyone aware of CAL FIRE currently using mobile repeaters in any other area of the state? Of note, they are requesting both analog and P25 emissions.
 
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If I remember right the 170mhz were used for mobile vehicular extender. I know Hollister has some licensed not sure if they are in use.

EDIT here
 

scannerboy02

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If I remember right the 170mhz were used for mobile vehicular extender. I know Hollister has some licensed not sure if they are in use.

EDIT here
The documents in the application explain how the frequency will be used.
 

Ravenfalls

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Rural Metro in AZ new radio lineup includes a vehicle repeater. Makes sense if you want use it as a standalone or cellular connected to home repeater when on wildland callout.
 

scannerboy02

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My thinking, again just MY thinking. Could they be doing this in preparation for CRIS? They may be concerned about portable coverage from the trunking system and a mobile repeater (extender) would be a good solution. Perhaps these counties will be a testing area for this setup??

173 MHz would give them good separation from the input/output of any VHF trunking sites and also keeps them off 700 MHz extenders like CHP is currently using. I myself am a little concerned with how CHP is going to deal with interference between the 700 MHz extenders and 700 MHz CRIS mobiles.
 

norcalscan

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My thinking, again just MY thinking. Could they be doing this in preparation for CRIS?
So how I approach these unknowns is first to try and determine what problem they are trying to solve within their existing operational parameters. Starting off with a wild guess of preparation for CRIS would get us lost on many tangents. Instead I take the clues we have available, the list of counties, the knowledge of the fixed-infrastructure in those counties available for CalFire, the political/funding access of those counties (or lack there of), the knowledge of how Calfire radio currently operates and any weaknesses it may have, especially in those listed counties, how a VRS works, the freqs involved, etc. etc. And if you want to still entertain CRIS, let's bring in those known clues as well, any hint at all of CalFire on CRIS yet, any hint of CRIS in those counties at all?

Let's do this. (and this is just my opinion or insight to my thought process, at a 10,000ft elevation.)
Keeping things simple, we know what a VRS does. Fixed infrastructure is reasonable in bulk of those counties, but certainly not as dense as the rest of the state. Local and Command Nets are colocated for the most part, but I can see HT coverage in those units being sketchy inside buildings and needing better access into fixed assets. But devils advocate, what changed today vs the last 20+ years where they just now are deciding to solve that possible problem? At worst, coverage got better with addl command net density over the last 10-20yrs. Also knowing firefighters, if they go into an area they know has sketchy indoor coverage (while not on a call), they'll leave someone outside where they have reception. The rest of the team can go in and grab groceries etc. And in-building reception is a problem statewide, it's not particularly exaggerated in these counties, that I'm aware of.

Political/funding access. Those are the worst counties to "test or develop" a new technology out, due to the political and funding distance from HQ. So it's very likely whatever is going in is a known solution to a known problem that once installed, they're confident will solve the problem. There's little access to technical staffing and PSCO up there.

Calfire currently has zero VRS, at least up here, who knows with contract counties like SBA, VEN etc. We know a VRS extends mobile radio to handheld. We know at some incidents it's a solo engine and medic, at larger incidents/TC's it's multiple engines, so is there any intelligence like CHP's system where only one VRS is active in a group? It's one freq, so it needs to be protected somehow from being overwhelmed in one location. Operationally at a small incident or TC, the engine resource is close enough where the PA on the engine can alert the firefighter to radio traffic they might be missing on their HT. There is little to no risk of delayed radio traffic, if a FF can't get out on the HT, they simply walk back to the engine to get to ECC. (For law, that risk is much higher with attacks etc. where ability to transmit instantly is critical). That inconvenience and low risk doesn't seem worthy of a technical investment like this.

Knowing CalFire has M150 mobiles and P150 portables, what operationally will change with a VRS? The P150 is a very capable radio, and FF's are training how to make it sing much more than typical law enforcement who either mash the PTT to talk or use it as a hammer, so it's not a lack of HT features. Will the HT do VRS 100% now, or will fire firefighter manually switch to VRS when needed? On a fire where the FF needs to be on the assigned tactical and monitoring air/ground, and where the officer-in-command/IC needs to monitor command net (fixed infra), tac and A/G (both simplex and geographically local to incident), does the radio tune to the VRS for the fixed infra channel in lieu of, or require a separate radio just for that, or...? So some interesting operational questions here to figure out. And Calfire moves its resources around statewide all the time. With major incidents in the area, 10 engines from San Diego County could be covering the local fire stations in Modoc County for initial attack. It's a very powerful dynamic force, and works well in California. But will San Diego resources have the VRS that is now supposedly required to operate safely or efficiently in Modoc?

Could this be tied to AVL instead? Where the AVL fixed-infra density may be minimal up there, and cell service alternate is also minimal, if this creates a sort of mesh of sorts where engines in a canyon can ping out to the VRS on an engine on the ridge that can hit the fixed-infra then I can see that being a problem they are trying to solve. Still needs some intelligence like CHP's setup I think, especially because the engine on the ridge might eventually drive out of coverage itself.

And finally CRIS. We have no inkling of Calfire on CRIS yet, with the closest hint being county stations in CZU using it as primary. Understanding operations, I'd expect the first actual Calfire presence on CRIS will be prevention and regional/state administration. They would need the encryption and/or range CRIS would provide. On top of that, there are no CRIS sites in those far reaches of the state yet. Southfork in Shasta is still in site mode only, not linked to the core yet. We also know CRIS original design is for mobile coverage only. Handheld coverage is a bonus. That might be changing in the Sac area if they have enough density coverage to support HT's with what appears to be the eventual move of CHP Valley Division onto CRIS.

So all that to say, best bet with the clues I have, is it's related to AVL, or there's a much larger gap in HT coverage of local net in those counties than I thought (and I've been in those counties and have not noticed any different HT coverage there than anywhere else).
 

zerg901

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Kern County Fire and Ventura County Fire are the only ?large? MO3 users that I can think of in California. Not sure how or when they use them.

CalFire might want to equip their Battalion Chiefs with MO3 so they can get out of their vehicles at structure fires and interface fires. Or maybe CalFire wants to be able to set up "temporary repeaters" at larger scenes like USFS or BLM does.

To elaborate on the previous paragraph - the 2 options would be -

BC >>> MO3 >>> other units

or

everyone on scene >>> MO3 >>> everyone on scene

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The emission modes on the license application are for FM voice and P25 voice

https://fccid.io/Emissions-Designator/8K10F1E
 

norcalscan

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BC >>> MO3 >>> other units
Maybe, but highly doubtful. BC's have dual head radios with the second head at the tailgate. Their tailgate becomes the mobile office. BC's don't roam away from their vehicle much if they are in the role of IC or OSC. If they are DIVS and away from their vehicle they will be in a geographic span of control that is covered by simplex, and no mobile repeater is needed. I've been trying to think strategically how existing operations would benefit with MO3 on a BC rig, and just can't think of it. Especially only in these geographic areas, and not forgetting the fact those vehicles can be summoned 600 miles south at a moment's notice to cover, and vice versa.

everyone on scene >>> MO3 >>> everyone on scene
Other than tac channels on a trunked system, typically fireground tactical repeaters are bad. There is no mission on a fire where everyone on scene needs to talk to everyone on scene. ICS limits all that and most of the layers just work on simplex. A FF only focuses on the mission in front of them and cannot worry about the other side of the fire. Simplex handles all traffic he/she needs for situational awareness and completing the mission they're assigned to. At the command level, they'll need to communicate incident-wide and that's where fixed-infra kicks in. And if the fire is large enough or old enough, portable repeaters kick in to free up the fixed-infra for new incidents.

CalFire has portable repeaters separate from the NIFC caches, but they aren't vehicle-based. It's the same as NIFC, pelican cases, batteries, tripod with antenna, solar panel.

Fish and Game's MO3 are P25 700Mhz extenders to the agent's radio. It solves an operational problem for them, hiking rural away from their vehicle and their fixed infra is not as dense as CalFire.
 

AM909

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Do the numbers reveal anything useful: 50 repeaters and 500 mobile units (handhelds) in each of the seven counties?
 

norcalscan

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Do the numbers reveal anything useful: 50 repeaters and 500 mobile units (handhelds) in each of the seven counties?
None other than a good round number I think to throw at the paperwork that would more than cover day-to-day norms? Considering Lassen county just had over 6000 personnel in the area for the Dixie Fire last month, I don't think the FCC will write anyone up for having more than 500 mobile units in said county for a few weeks or months.
 

zerg901

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let me elaborate a little more

(BC = battalion chief) (or even captain of first engine)

BC >>> MO3 >>> everyone else

BC arrives at a car crash or building fire or plane crash in woods etc - BC gets out of buggy and walks up to scene - BC portable radio talks to MO3 which retransmits message on the input to the CalFire Local channel or Command Channel - BC can now talk to anyone in a 200 square mile area who is on the Command Channel or Local Channel - BC portable receives on 173 Mhz which is the output of the MO3 - the MO3 is receiving the output of the Local repeater or the output of the Command Channel in this instance (on the 'reverse path')

If I had to guess, I would guess this is how FD MO3 are used east of the Mississippi 90% of time - a fire chief will complain that he cannot reliably reach the dispatcher via his portable radio - the radio man will say "you need a MO3 my good man"

----------------------

everyone on scene >>> MO3 >>> everyone on scene

BC arrives at a vegetation fire and parks 1/2 mile away in a clearing or on a small hill - BC now has the capability to speak to all HTs (and mobiles) at the scene - AND - all HTs (and mobiles) at the scene can talk to each other - (this would initially involve maybe 5 engines, 2 hand crews, 2 air tankers, and 1 chopper)

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back to the first case - lets say that BC wants to talk on Command 1 via his MO3 - the comm paths would be

'forward' -- BC portable >> 173.3625 >> MO3 >> 159.300

'reverse' - 151.355 R >> MO3 >> 173.3625 >> BC portable

or you could have

'forward' - BC portable >> 173.3625 >> MO3 >> 159.300 ( with BC portable receiving on 151.355 )

'reverse' - 151.355 R >> BC portable

the second case might have the MO3 set up to TX on 159.0000 (new freq) and to receive on 173.3625 -- all portables and mobiles at the scene would transmit on 173.3625 and receive on 159.0000
 
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norcalscan

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You are correct, that is how a VRS typically/technically works. Many of us know that, and we all agree VRS/MO3 solutions are an awesome tool, and are vital in some situations and departments. My issue is operationally how does this work for CalFire? Don't focus on the technical bits, you missed the larger picture. You have to know how CalFire operates in order to see what problem they might be trying to solve.

Read my message #9 above again. BC's don't roam away from their vehicle if they are acting in the role of IC or OSC. Incident Commanders don't get involved in the scene, otherwise they cannot effectively command. They will be in their vehicle or at their tailgate, or if portable, they'll be within simplex coverage of the portion of the incident they are commanding, period. With the density of Calfire fixed-infrastructure, especially outside, you'll have above-average HT coverage into a repeater the same as any other Calfire unit. That isn't a problem that just suddenly popped up in 2021 that they are trying to resolve in these upper northern Counties.

Same paragraph message #9 above. If this is indeed a solution that is needed due to lack of HT coverage, it all falls apart as soon as a BC from MVU is covering in LMU. The BC from MVU doesn't have a VRS in their vehicle. We're back to square one. With a few exceptions, operations in Calfire are common across the entire state. A solution custom to one location does not and cannot work because all 3000+ calfire vehicles in the state dynamically move throughout the state all the time. Any solution must be independent from the vehicle fleet, or the entire fleet must adapt.

I have a very strong feeling this is AVL related, and nothing to do with voice traffic.
 

norcalscan

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Another better fit to this would be Prevention units getting VRS. As I mentioned earlier with law enforcement needing more immediate PTT access than fire, this would fit that bill, as well as needing good coverage while away from vehicle, and would not be subject as much to mutual aid as the fire suppression and command resources would, so would typically stay in their local units. Hmmm. :unsure:
 

scannerboy02

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I have a very strong feeling this is AVL related, and nothing to do with voice traffic.
In what way would they use this for AVL? They requested analog and P25 emissions and from my understanding of reading the documents that were attached to the application I don't believe they would be allowed to use the frequency for AVL's, I could very well be wrong about that though.
 

scannerboy02

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Also, if it were for AVL why only in those counties and not the entire state? What happens when a vehicle leaves that area and the AVL continues to transmit?
 

norcalscan

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Also, if it were for AVL why only in those counties and not the entire state? What happens when a vehicle leaves that area and the AVL continues to transmit?
Message 7, paragraph 6. AVL relies a lot more on radio up in these parts vs cell coverage. Handshakes/beacons can certainly occur in AVL where the system can switch over to an alternate freq. It still breaks the theory of incoming mutual aid resources inheriting the "problem" though, but AVL is a much lower effort than voice traffic so sporadic coverage could be an accepted risk in that situation. All that though before remembering Prevention's mission, which sways my thoughts now.
 

zerg901

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How many radios do the typical Cal Fire units have these days? What is their typical staffing?

AFAIK Cal Fire is an "all risk" agency. Basically this means they have 300 pumpers that are used to handle all typical FD duties - structural + wildfire + EMS. Pumpers have 500 GPM pumps and 500 gallon water tanks. Staffing on pumpers in the summer is 3 or 4 people. In the winter it is typically 2 people. 50% of their responses are for EMS. Right?

It is not uncommon to hear long static filled messages from people on portable radios trying to use a 'Local Net' to talk to a Cal Fire dispatcher via a repeater (FB2). Right?
 
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