CAL FIRE - Fire Season 2021

ScanFanEd

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I know it is a bit early, however looking toward the 2021 fire season, just wondering if anyone has heard of or speculates any CAL FIRE channel/frequencies changes?
 

nokoa3116

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I know it is a bit early, however looking toward the 2021 fire season, just wondering if anyone has heard of or speculates any CAL FIRE channel/frequencies changes?
Do they usually make changes to Cal Fire radios at these? That sounds like a mess, because of all the mutual aid they receive nation wide.
 

mmckenna

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Do they usually make changes to Cal Fire radios at these? That sounds like a mess, because of all the mutual aid they receive nation wide.
They used to release updates around May each year. The true mutual aid stuff stays pretty steady. Sometimes the NIFC stuff changes a bit. More often than not, it's CalFire repeater tone changes, and the like.
 

rsmith7799

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So from our FIRESCOPE meeting last month, CalFIRE will have little change from last year....adjustments to 1 or 2 Dispatch frequencies (not CalFIRES). They are looking at some Firmware/Software changes with the BK KNG but most likely not until next year.
KK6, what was the discrepancy with OES? I'll pass it along.
 

rsmith7799

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CAL FIRE Telecom is conducting the BETA Profile test BKT FW SW platform KNG FW 5.5.0P and SW RES 5.8.8.
I have authorized a limited reprogramming of the new firmware for some of our M150s and P150s.

If the test proves positive and expected results, CAL FIRE will be upgrading ALL OF OUR RADIOS (M150s and P150s) to the 5.5.0P version of firmware.
The RES programming software must be the 5.5.8.
 

Markb

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Do they usually make changes to Cal Fire radios at these? That sounds like a mess, because of all the mutual aid they receive nation wide.
It's very clean, actually. Changes and updates, if any, are done annually. Any out-of-state resources (and in-state, for that matter) have their radios cloned with the current comm plan at the incident. Those that don't have BK radios are able to check them out as well.
 

es93546

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It's very clean, actually. Changes and updates, if any, are done annually. Any out-of-state resources (and in-state, for that matter) have their radios cloned with the current comm plan at the incident. Those that don't have BK radios are able to check them out as well.
Here is some additional information about out of state resources coming in. If they are ordered for a wildland fire, most use BK radios for handhelds. It is somewhat universal for wildland firefighting to have BK handhelds. If a resource arrives without them, a handheld cache is maintained at the incident. Mobile radios are usually not cloned, changed or even used for comms on a large incident. The comm plan normally includes frequencies from the NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center) cache. A lot of agencies write programs for both mobiles and handhelds that include groups that have the NIFC frequencies. In many cases the resource's agency leaves some groups blank and available for cloning. This allows mobiles to be cloned as well if they are set up in a similar manner. For fires on the SRA, many agencies will program groups with the state's commands and tacs in them, but again, cloning at the scene is usually done per the incident's comm plan.

If resources arrive and are immediately needed on some portion of the fire, this is when the preprogrammed groups of NIFC or Cal Fire tacs and commands are needed. I've arrived at multi day large incidents, quickly signed in and immediately assigned to a portion of the fire. These are called "immediate need responses" and Code 3 is authorized. In this case I would get a copy of the comm plan at the sign in station. I was practiced at quickly programming my own handheld and then cloning all the handhelds my crew had. The extra 10 or fewer minutes this takes results in better communications once the crew arrived at their assignment. Having the correct tac(s), command net, air to ground and National Air Guard (used by ground crews for emergencies) in the channel order of the comm plan is needed to make the crew safer. Because of this I never had any pressure to leave before cloning the crew's radios, especially given the speed I could accomplish the task. The preprogrammed groups often had all the tacs in one group (more groups for Cal Fire), commands in another group and air to grounds in another group. Switching between the groups is a bit cumbersome, so I preferred getting the incident comm plan frequencies into a group ASAP. If resources arrive on a fire and are then assigned to an upcoming shift, then there is plenty of time to have the communications unit do the cloning.

There is no "mess" for any of this. Resources are usually well practiced at this and the incident base well equipped to eliminate any glitches. All the ICS procedures, the off season training and the incredible amount of mutual aid coordination done results in some amazing responses. People with fire qualifications are very familiar with their radios, often times how to program them and what the NIFC and Cal Fire large incident frequencies are.

The changes made to various large incident radio frequencies are usually done in the early part of the year. Radio techs at various locations then change the master programs for all the unit's radios, then schedule when apparatus and handhelds can be cloned. Some techs chose to travel about their units with a computer and reprogram all radios in a single visit. That is how it was done when I worked on the Inyo National Forest.
 

ME801

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That information is still current. Incoming resources can always send a rep to the Comm Unit and get a clone for his/her radio and then clone the rest of their crew/strike team. Single Resources, such as myself, can get a 215 from the Comm Unit or anyone that has a current IAP. If it's immediate need order, I'll try to find a copy of the IAP on the ftp site and at least get command and A2G freq's.
 

es93546

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That information is still current. Incoming resources can always send a rep to the Comm Unit and get a clone for his/her radio and then clone the rest of their crew/strike team. Single Resources, such as myself, can get a 215 from the Comm Unit or anyone that has a current IAP. If it's immediate need order, I'll try to find a copy of the IAP on the ftp site and at least get command and A2G freq's.
I think you meant a ICS 205 form, the 215 is the basis of most of the planning in the twice daily planning sessions. I retired before having laptops on fires had become a little more common. Heck, I retired when having real PC's that you could get onto the internet with and send real email was still a bit new. I had 16 years of experience using those old Data General dumb terminals. Each ranger district had a "computer room" for the actual computer that was about 250-300 square feet in size, with a raised platform covered with a special linoleum floor and its own air conditioner unit. Some districts had satellite links because the local phone wiring was not up to computer standards. The computers were so lousy that we didn't notice a difference between satellite and hard wire connections, in fact, satellite links were put in to speed up the networking in some locations where both were available.

What you didn't see so often then was people who had a scanner in their vehicles, frequency guides for other than wildland fire and knew how to use them. Sure the mobiles had groups and they scanned, but how about a scanner with 800 MHz and 100 more receive only channels? It was often quite useful to receive CHP and Caltrans on California fires, DPS in Arizona, and NHP in Nevada (when they were on low band). The mobile was high band, but didn't have the VHF high frequencies in them for the New Mexico State Police, Utah Highway Patrol and several hundred rural counties in the western U.S.

My last mobile radio did not have fixed groups, it had dynamic groups, just like some scanners. In that way I could program, for example NIFC Tac 2, once and include it in several groups. This stretched out the number of frequencies you could have in the radio as there were no duplicates needed, which isn't true of the 16 frequencies per group, 16 - 25 groups or more handhelds that are common now.
 
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ScanFanEd

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This is a great thread. I always try to go into fire season with the radios programmed and ready to go.

Can anyone comment on how, in general, CALFIRE radios are programmed? How many zones, what they are named and what they generally contain?

Thanks to all for the informative info!
 

norcalscan

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Can anyone comment on how, in general, CALFIRE radios are programmed? How many zones, what they are named and what they generally contain?
Here's a screenshot of last year's zone organization.

calfire zones.png

With the newer Relm M150 and P150's, they have plenty of room now to rethink the "calfire/state load." Each Unit is responsible for sending to Sac what they'd like in their zone, and what they feel is needed for IA within their zone. It goes into the master build and thus everyone gets to benefit from that local knowledge. So you tune to Zone 25 TGU, and there's 58 channels in there with TGU's IA load, extended attack load, bunch of local govt freqs/tacs, local law RX, neighboring USFS etc. Not only great for mutual aid IA, but also move up and covering distant Units. Zones 51-54 are front-panel-programmable by the mic keypad, cloned for incidents, and act as a dynamic command group like the older BK CMD radios.
 

es93546

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Here's a screenshot of last year's zone organization.

View attachment 101365

With the newer Relm M150 and P150's, they have plenty of room now to rethink the "calfire/state load." Each Unit is responsible for sending to Sac what they'd like in their zone, and what they feel is needed for IA within their zone. It goes into the master build and thus everyone gets to benefit from that local knowledge. So you tune to Zone 25 TGU, and there's 58 channels in there with TGU's IA load, extended attack load, bunch of local govt freqs/tacs, local law RX, neighboring USFS etc. Not only great for mutual aid IA, but also move up and covering distant Units. Zones 51-54 are front-panel-programmable by the mic keypad, cloned for incidents, and act as a dynamic command group like the older BK CMD radios.
While frequencies within the groups will change from time to time, the groups that cover each CDF unit will remain the same. The group numbers are the same as the unit's radio identifiers (callsigns). These numbers form the first two digits of the number painted on the agency's apparatus. The agency has been using these numbers for at least 50 years, with some changes made to some of the units in the late 1970's or early 80's when the agency reduced the 6 regions to 4. Some years back, maybe 20, the number of regions was reduced to 2. However, the unit numbers were kept intact when this was implemented. Don't expect any changes to these numbers as employees have them memorized and given the difficulty of repainting all apparatus they will likely remain as they are for a long time.
 
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