Forest Service and Repeaters

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An LAPD handheld being picked up by the LAPD repeater system in L.A.?...
I'm sorry but what? A lot of extraneous information in your reply. There's nothing unusual about being along the coast at the Mexican border talking straight up to Mount Lee. Or Palos Verdes or Oat Mountain. I looked them up on this website. We were on South Bureau Tac. If we were picked up on a secondary receiver I wouldn't know. But we were picked up. If a ham radio operator can access a repeater from San Diego across mountains to Strawberry Peak why can't an expensive Motorola HT access a multimillion-dollar radio system? We had a shot straight up the coast. I own a boat and I can be down in San Diego and easily talk to somebody up in Ventura. You lost me.

You seemed also to confirm that with the forest service you used simplex and talked to remote bases. Isn't a remote base just a repeater that isn't in repeat mode? It's to limit coverage so that units in other areas can talk without being covered. That's what my Elmer tells me. So the suggestion that in the San Bernardino National Forest I'm hearing stations on the output of the repeater would be accurate.

It hardly doesn't matter. So far most of my hiking areas in the San Bernardino's and the San Gabriels are burned up now.
 

es93546

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I'm sorry but what? A lot of extraneous information in your reply. There's nothing unusual about being along the coast at the Mexican border talking straight up to Mount Lee. Or Palos Verdes or Oat Mountain. I looked them up on this website. We were on South Bureau Tac. If we were picked up on a secondary receiver I wouldn't know. But we were picked up. If a ham radio operator can access a repeater from San Diego across mountains to Strawberry Peak why can't an expensive Motorola HT access a multimillion-dollar radio system? We had a shot straight up the coast. I own a boat and I can be down in San Diego and easily talk to somebody up in Ventura. You lost me.

You seemed also to confirm that with the forest service you used simplex and talked to remote bases. Isn't a remote base just a repeater that isn't in repeat mode? It's to limit coverage so that units in other areas can talk without being covered. That's what my Elmer tells me. So the suggestion that in the San Bernardino National Forest I'm hearing stations on the output of the repeater would be accurate.

It hardly doesn't matter. So far most of my hiking areas in the San Bernardino's and the San Gabriels are burned up now.
I moved from L.A. the last time (I had one summer and a college semester out of L.A. up to then) in 1973. You are absolutely correct about getting into L.A. area repeaters over open water. I was at Gaviota on 101 with a 1970 Regency 8 crystal scanner sometime in 1971. I had the South Bay police channel in the scanner mounted on my dash. I think it was 155.610 MHz, but the years do pass don't they? Anyhow, I picked up some mobile units from PVE and El Segundo right after coming through that gap where the 101 turns northward. That is where I got a great lesson in the capability of radios when terrain is flat or an over the water path is involved. Thanks for the reminder. How I forgot is interesting as I mentioned it in relation to how the one remote base at Santa Ynez Peak on the Los Padres National Forest can work every repeater on the Monterey Ranger District.

No, I did not work simplex through remote bases very often with the U.S. Forest Service. This was how the old USFS systems worked and I used them for about the first half of my career (14 years). There would be one or two remote bases on a forest and no repeaters. If we were in a blind spot, we had the nearest lookout verbally relay our traffic. Outside of the fire season when lookouts were not staffed we had quite a few blind spots. Then repeaters began to installed on the lookouts with the best coverage. They tried to limit the numbers of these because there wasn't a way to choose an individual repeater. If you were in a location where you could get into two repeaters they both transmitted at the same time, hmmm, not good. Channel 1 was always forest net direct and Channel 2 was for accessing repeaters, the TX freq of CH2 was the repeater input. Then, depending on the location, admin Region, and the funding for a forest, either burst tone or DTMF selection of repeaters was built in. About 1983-1984 forests adjacent to where I was working finally got CTCSS selection for repeaters. Our forest's radio system was not updated from its late 1950's system until 1988, just before I transferred from there.

On the Inyo National Forest, only the repeater pair is programed into mobile and handhelds, not the simplex forest nets (one north and one south) so as not to waste channels. All simplex traffic is on R5 Project Net, NIFC Tac 2 and the 3 R5 tacticals. The mobiles can't call dispatch on simplex when they are in range of the remote bases, which there is only one for each net, located line of sight of dispatch.

A remote base is linked via phone lines, UHF radio or microwave linking. With this and a hookup to the base station at the ranger stations or dispatch, you were working a base station on a high peak. The remote base was capable of transmitting simplex or as in the example above, switching to Channel 2 and transmitting the repeater input frequencies to all the repeaters on the system, along with the burst tone, DTMF tones or eventually as standardized across the agency, a CTCSS tone. The remote base is not capable of receiving the input frequency and then transmitting that signal on the output frequency. It acts like a mobile radio placed on top of the mountain that is patched to a UHF (406-420 MHz) radio so it can be controlled by base stations. The ranger stations would wire several desk base station terminals throughout the ranger station so that employees who needed one near their desks to communicate with their people in the field. Fire stations located away from the district offices often link to the same remote base.

In some places repeaters, with their own transceivers are installed at the remote bases. Those remote bases don't do the repeating, the repeater equipment, which is nearly identical to all the other repeaters, accomplishes that.

As far as what your Elmer told you, it all depends on how much money has been spent on a forest's comm system. The Angeles has some sites linked by microwave and some with 406-420 frequencies. They are interesting in that they have a number of remote bases, I think about 4-6, but have repeaters located at all those sites, minus one or two. I have a diagram of the system that doesn't explain the details, so I'm guessing on some of this. On the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF the new comm system built in 1988 and on the Inyo NF system remote base direct traffic was discouraged as having every unit hear as much traffic as possible.
 
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I moved from L.A. the last time (I had one summer and a college semester out of L.A. up to then) in 1973. You are absolutely correct about getting into L.A. area repeaters over open water. I was at Gaviota on 101 with a 1970 Regency 8 crystal scanner sometime in 1971.
You are definitely an encyclopedia of the Forest Service! You remind me of my time when LAPD was on VHF. It wasn't uncommon at all to have distances greater than they have now. Especially up and down the coast. But that was a long time ago. I got started in 1976 so that gives you my timeline.

My Elmer has a Bendix King that I only remember the name of because it's the same brand I have in my Piper PA-28. At any rate, he showed it to me and it's a tall gray radio with an orange battery pack but he's got a rechargeable pack for it. He says it's one of the best ham radios he's ever had. Right on the top of it though is a switch marked T/A for talk around. He's got his programmed for area repeaters and he says he uses the feature in case the repeater goes down and he can talk on the output. But he says everything is going to something called DMR and that these older radios are kind of getting phased out.

I don't want to bore the hell out of everybody and I think we've used up enough interweb time on this. I was just curious. I did just hear a little bit ago however BDF dispatch on Forest Net talking simplex with a mobile. I could tell because I could hear the dispatcher loud and clear and whoever he was talking to was popping in and out. I'm pretty confident that was a simplex conversation. We had them back in 1976 and we had them up until I retired on our Rovers. We had a button on the side that we pushed and we were on talk around. Otherwise known as simplex. It's used all the time on the fallback repeaters at each station. When we would go into self dispatch mode whenever the main dispatch would go down for whatever reason or just as a drill we could talk through the station's repeater or simplex and they could still hear us on simplex.

My wife says I'm not allowed to get addicted to this. LOL. I need a hobby other than cute 20 year olds since my wife won't let me have pets.
 

hodad200

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Am I thinking of the same pursuit you’re talking about? ‘98 or ‘99? Green Ford Contour? Dude had his baby hostage at knifepoint? Ran into Mexico and got tackled?
 
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Am I thinking of the same pursuit you’re talking about? ‘98 or ‘99? Green Ford Contour? Dude had his baby hostage at knifepoint? Ran into Mexico and got tackled?
THAT'S THE ONE! Eddie Price as I recall. We wanted him for burglary and when we tried to stop him he took off with his own son in the car. As I recall it was in 1998 and we chased him all the way to the border. We had a warrant for his arrest for burglary in the West Los Angeles area. When we went to get him he took off. We hit the 5 and went straight down. When he stopped he had Customs holding him at gunpoint while he held a knife to his own throat. We were right behind him with CHP. All of a sudden he kind of tossed his son to the Customs officer and ran across the line separating the US from Mexico. It was only a couple of feet short of the line to begin with. Our K-9 went after him not realizing he wasn't allowed to go across that line. As I recall the K-9's name was Oscar or Ozzy or something like that and he dropped him like a bad habit. The Federales gave him back to us a few hours later. That was an extremely intense situation. We didn't know how the Federales were going to respond but they were quite professional about it. We later appreciated the fact that they just turned him over. No extradition BS to go through. He got bit pretty good so he had to have some treatment. We actually did lose radio communication at some point. It was intermittent at best. I will admit that it was surprising that when we put out a code 4 we were heard. That's like a 120 miles away. I'm surprised you remember it. You must be close to my age.
 

silverspy

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When I was first studying to be a ham operator in the early nineties in California, for some reason, the difference between a remote base and a repeater was a difficult concept for me to understand. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time and I joined the Cactus Intertie network. They gave me a
rather long book containing all the DTMF link codes, and I could link all the way back to Washington D.C. At the sites, the base stations were linked with ports. There was even a “switching center” in Southern California, from which you could continue your electronic journey further eastward; the “switching center” did not have any repeater “associated or attached” to it, it just linked other remote bases together. Anyway, all this really helped solidify my understanding of the difference between a repeater and a remote base. I am glad to have had the experience.
 
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National forest dispatchers, nearly all of which are located in interagency dispatch or comm system facilities can access every repeater on a forest's, park's, BLM districts comm system.
At least one other user has confirmed that he used simplex on the National Forest. I admit that I'm completely new to this in the aspect of listening to the forest service but since the seventies I have been operating two-way radios when they were simplex dispatch channels, repeater channels and then the new 500 system that's been at LAPD since the early 2000s. I know simplex when I hear it. I know that just yesterday I heard a station talking to San Bernardino and he was scratchy and broken. They were loud and clear. The dispatcher understood him perfectly. I don't see any purpose in trying to convince me that as a police officer I don't understand how a radio works because it's different with a forest ranger. With all due respect. I believe you hit the nail on the head when you said that they don't generally use the repeaters because they could double up with each other at the same time. I have noticed that when they're on the repeater they announce what tone they're on and suddenly the dispatcher changes to that tone. I either hear the dispatcher better or worse. I believe I'm correctly assuming that's a repeater. I know the San Bernardino Bernardino's fairly well at this point. It's 60 miles long and 40 miles wide. That's just the main forest. Then there's the Idlewild area. I noticed it when they give the morning weather to dispatcher announces it twice. I'm assuming since one is weaker it's for the San Bernardino Mountain area and the one that is stronger and closer to me is for Idyllwild. I don't know the extent of the dispatch capabilities of the Dispatch Center or who they dispatch for. But if the conversation I heard yesterday was on the repeater the station that was talking to the dispatcher wouldn't have been breaking up. As a matter of courtesy I think it's probably best that would you slept this lay. I could be wrong but I really don't think I am. I've been using two-way radios professionally for a very long time. I'm new here and I don't want to make a fuss and create a reputation of being contrary. I really just intended to ask a simple question. Have a great day.
 

es93546

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At least one other user has confirmed that he used simplex on the National Forest. I admit that I'm completely new to this in the aspect of listening to the forest service but since the seventies I have been operating two-way radios when they were simplex dispatch channels, repeater channels and then the new 500 system that's been at LAPD since the early 2000s. I know simplex when I hear it. I know that just yesterday I heard a station talking to San Bernardino and he was scratchy and broken. They were loud and clear. The dispatcher understood him perfectly. I don't see any purpose in trying to convince me that as a police officer I don't understand how a radio works because it's different with a forest ranger. With all due respect. I believe you hit the nail on the head when you said that they don't generally use the repeaters because they could double up with each other at the same time. I have noticed that when they're on the repeater they announce what tone they're on and suddenly the dispatcher changes to that tone. I either hear the dispatcher better or worse. I believe I'm correctly assuming that's a repeater. I know the San Bernardino Bernardino's fairly well at this point. It's 60 miles long and 40 miles wide. That's just the main forest. Then there's the Idlewild area. I noticed it when they give the morning weather to dispatcher announces it twice. I'm assuming since one is weaker it's for the San Bernardino Mountain area and the one that is stronger and closer to me is for Idyllwild. I don't know the extent of the dispatch capabilities of the Dispatch Center or who they dispatch for. But if the conversation I heard yesterday was on the repeater the station that was talking to the dispatcher wouldn't have been breaking up. As a matter of courtesy I think it's probably best that would you slept this lay. I could be wrong but I really don't think I am. I've been using two-way radios professionally for a very long time. I'm new here and I don't want to make a fuss and create a reputation of being contrary. I really just intended to ask a simple question. Have a great day.
I know that just yesterday I heard a station talking to San Bernardino and he was scratchy and broken. They were loud and clear. The dispatcher understood him perfectly.

Yes, the mobile unit operator knows which sites have both a repeater and a remote base. They switch to simplex, then select the tone that the remote base will recognize. R5 national forests typically use Tone 1 or Tone 8 to communicate with the dispatcher and offices, fire stations and visitor centers. Not all national forests have systems that allow mobile-base simplex communications. Based on my knowledge and use of the various R5 systems this simplex communication with a base station, is the exception and not the rule. The Inyo National Forest, where I worked the last 10 years of my career, no longer programs simplex channels for the three nets on the forest. The Cibola National Forest, where I worked in the late 70's/early 80's used microwaved linked remote bases, one for each ranger district, for simplex communications all the time, but provided repeaters in locations that the remote bases could not cover. Now, there isn't much communicating without using a repeater and all the remote base station sites have a repeater located there as well.

I don't see any purpose in trying to convince me that as a police officer I don't understand how a radio works because it's different with a forest ranger.

Urban police officers generally switch channels based on experience and agency protocols. They don't have CTCSS selection switches on their handhelds or mobiles. If I'm wrong about this, let me know. I've listened to the LAPD since I was 17 till I moved away at the age of 22, but visited family there up until 2012. I bought my first digital scanner for the express reason of being able to continue to listen to them. U.S Forest Service employees have to switch channels too, but they have to switch tones as well. They have to gain some experience and learn from others the areas each repeater covers. This is not a straightforward process. The average city PD officer may never know, in their entire careers, which repeaters are being used, the fact that there are satellite receive only sites, which are controlled by a computer, passing the best signal to the repeater. They might not know how the repeaters on the tacticals work and which repeater their signal is being transmitted on. Since their radio does not include ways to select repeaters, their knowledge of repeater locations is minimal, if any at all. This is for a reason, a police officer has a huge number of things to be thinking about all the time, they should not be burdened with what repeater they should select.

It sounds like you know more than the average police officer does about how radios work. During the years of my career in 4 different states and on over a hundred fires in 8 states, I observed that on the average, firefighters knew how radio works more than law enforcement officers. Rural sheriff's deputies often use systems similar to those of the USFS, where they have a tone selection switch and need to be aware of what repeater covers their location the best. Some of these departments have eliminated tone switches and have programmed a channel for each repeater. Mono County has 9 or 10 such channels, all with the same pair of frequencies.

I believe you hit the nail on the head when you said that they don't generally use the repeaters because they could double up with each other at the same time.

You misunderstood what I said. Repeaters now have CTCSS selection for each repeater. There is no longer any doubling up on repeaters. The doubling up I mentioned occurred when USFS systems did not have any means to select which repeater came on when units selected "Channel 2." Forests had Channel 1 for simpex and Channel 2 for repeater access, nothing else. Then DTMF tones were used in some locations to turn on the repeater someone wanted to use and they had to turn it off when they were done. If two repeaters were on at the same time, "repeater wars" would occur. The person who forgot would be cussed out off air, if anyone remembered who used that repeater last. Burst tones were a better method, but the tone was pretty annoying as it was in the range of human hearing. CTCSS is subaudible and eliminates the annoyance Each repeater is on all the time, just waiting for the tone assigned to it, to then start transmitting.

I don't know the extent of the dispatch capabilities of the Dispatch Center or who they dispatch for.

The San Bernardino National Forest is dispatched by the San Bernardino Federal Interagency Communications Center, that is located at the San Bernardino NF Supervisor's Office near the SB airport. They dispatch for: the SBNF, the BLM's California Desert District, Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park and the Southern California Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They also dispatch for the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service's multiple National Wildlife Refuges located in the large southern and eastern California portions of the state. You can Google the "FICC" and learn more. This is the highest volume national resources/federal land management comm center in the federal government, it is a 24/7/365 operation, an exception in this, not a rule. It's out of the way from my usual travels, but if I have the time during my next trip in the area, I think my USFS retiree ID will get me in.

This center can work every repeater of every net of each system, as well as any remote bases on those systems. . They also monitor Air Guard, National Flight Following and can work the law enforcement nets of the USFS and BLM. Take a look at this site for a bit of additional info:

CAD for the FICC


Hey, I'm just trying to help you get more information about what you are hearing. You bring up some points and I try to provide explanations. If I've missed the mark or somehow offended you, I apologize.
 

es93546

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I should add that simplex communication on Forest, Admin and Service nets is discouraged in most national forests, including mobile-base and mobile to mobile communications. This is why R5 has a region wide "Project Net" that is there for every function's use, timber, range, recreation, wildlife, engineering, etc. and fire. Prior to having this these units were using NIFC Tac 2 for this or forest/admin simplex. It was the only tactical frequency in most radios. It often sounded like CB, with people talking on top of each other. Simplex forest and admin net comms, mobile to mobile was the only option after direction was issued that Tac 2 was only for fire. It was tough as repeater traffic would boom over and caused a lot of interruptions. Now there are 3 R5 Tacs and Project Net. Project net is now used for mobile-mobile admin comms, and fire does to, leaving the R5 tacs for fire comms and initial attack.
 

BATT4410

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I should add that simplex communication on Forest, Admin and Service nets is discouraged in most national forests, including mobile-base and mobile to mobile communications. This is why R5 has a region wide "Project Net" that is there for every function's use, timber, range, recreation, wildlife, engineering, etc. and fire. Prior to having this these units were using NIFC Tac 2 for this or forest/admin simplex. It was the only tactical frequency in most radios. It often sounded like CB, with people talking on top of each other. Simplex forest and admin net comms, mobile to mobile was the only option after direction was issued that Tac 2 was only for fire. It was tough as repeater traffic would boom over and caused a lot of interruptions. Now there are 3 R5 Tacs and Project Net. Project net is now used for mobile-mobile admin comms, and fire does to, leaving the R5 tacs for fire comms and initial attack.
Direct or Simplex use is the primary method of communications on the STF, as directed by the 2020 Radio Use Guide. Repeater use is secondary as needed.

E213B23B-AD88-4571-9743-04CC8AC0A4BE.jpeg
 

es93546

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Direct or Simplex use is the primary method of communications on the STF, as directed by the 2020 Radio Use Guide. Repeater use is secondary as needed.

View attachment 91836
I've not seen such a policy on a national forest before. I've worked on 4 national forests and that was the policy when we didn't have a means to select repeaters. The Inyo NF took the simplex forests nets (north and south) and service net out of all the radio programs. Forests most often had simplex forest net on Channel 1 and Channel 2 for repeater access, and in effect, the Inyo has removed Channel 1. The north net and service net have remote bases near Bishop (UHF linked) and the South Net has another further south on a peak that has a UHF path to Bishop. The last year I was on the Toiyabe NF a new system replaced the 1950's vintage radio system in place there. We were encouraged to use repeaters as much as possible. This is so everyone could hear what was going on over a wide area. On the Inyo's Mammoth RD we needed to hear what was happening on the Mono Lake and White Mtn. districts in fire, law enforcement and recreation as we often dealt with the same problem people on the same days. We would call others on the adjacent districts to warn of problem people headed their way. We could not hear the Whitney district unless they used the repeater near Bishop (Silver Peak) and would have liked to, but given the topography of this 200 mile long forest, it was not possible.

The National Park Service has set up linked, multicasted repeater nets in many national parks so everyone hears everything, similar to how command nets are set up using the NIFC system on large fires. Doing so helps to avoid people on repeaters covering each other for dispatch. They also have the need for everyone to listen to each other's traffic like we did on the Inyo. Both Lassen NP and Sequoia-Kings have multicast systems. Sequoia-Kings has two, one for the frontcounty and one for the wilderness. Grand Canyon has the most extensive system of this type. Joshua Tree has one for its park net.
 
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Yes, the mobile unit operator knows which sites have both a repeater and a remote base. They switch to simplex, then select the tone that the remote base will recognize.
You've been quite helpful and I appreciate it. I have kind of felt like I've been treading gently here because I'm the new guy and I don't want to piss anyone off. I didn't want to sound argumentative. I just tried to be collegial and showing an interest. I've not wanted to be rude. With each reply I learned something new.

Early in this conversation I was told that as a police officer I knew nothing about a forest rangers radio and that simply wasn't the case. The message prior to yours was a link once again to the database and a snotty comment that it would have just taken me a second to find the frequencies when the frequencies have never been the issue. It has been the USE of the frequencies. I think the question was answered some time ago. It was just answered again in fact. Certain national forests apparently instruct their personnel to go direct and only use the repeater if necessary. The San Bernardino National Forest apparently is one of them.

Having used simplex before I knew the characteristic sound of the "kirch" as the unit unkeyed as well as the, I don't know what you call it - "Ftttt - Ftttt - Ftttt." One minute I could hear them and the next I couldn't. Since we used simplex on stakeouts I knew the sound.

The first police department I worked for in California had 8 channel radios. Ch. 1 was the repeater; Ch. 2 was talk around. Ch. 3 was the Tac 2 repeater; Ch. 4 was Tac 2 talk around. Channel 5 was CLEMARS and Ch. 6 was Fire. The remaining two channels were sneaky channels. We could be anywhere in the state and could almost always talk to CHP if we needed to on CLEMARS. The point is that we received instruction on how to use the radios. I'm sure the instruction we've received was no different than Forest Rangers. But you are correct that we didn't have to worry about ctcss. It was automatic.

But that brings up a point that I made about repeaters doubling. I know enough at this point that ctcss only mutes the speaker unless a matching tone is received. All Forests use a common output tone of 103.5. The two units talking may or may not be able to hear the other repeater but some guy in the middle can hear both and it's nothing but noise. I know that I'm just a dumb cop that apparently doesn't know how to use a radio but this would seem to justify using simplex and remote bases.

LAPD radios are a bit more complicated because they have a lot of channels for interoperability. As a general rule we would stay on dispatch or a Tac. We could talk to for example the L.A. County, Ventura Co., and Kern Co. Sheriff's, and many of the local police departments directly. Or we could use the county mutual aid channels. We could also be patched over to CHP but that came more towards the end of my career. Each station has what's called a Fallback Channel which is often times used in simplex mode very much like the National Forest. Unless there's a need for wide area coverage we were directed to use simplex. We didn't even have to change channels. It was a switch on the the radio. Periodically we would go on self-dispatch simulating an outage at ECC.

It's all good. I've learned that depending on what Forest you go to they do or they don't use simplex as a general rule.
 

es93546

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@es93546 --Can INF link (or bridge) north and south together?
Sorry, your post fell through the cracks here! I don't know if the system has the capability of linking the two together in the field. They multicast north, south and the BLM Bishop net for announcements and fire dispatches, but for field units I don't think dispatch can link the Glass Mountain repeater on north to the Mazourka Peak repeater on the south net. During my career I never heard about a system being able to link field units on one repeater, to field units on another repeater. Wait, on my last year on the Toiyabe NF, they stated that someone could patch one repeater to another because all the remote bases on the forest had microwave linking and each repeater had UHF links back to the microwave system. I think the possibility of someone on the Carson Ranger District using, for example, Hawkins Peak, to be patched with a unit using Cory Peak was brought up. I left after about 3 months of the 1988 field season had gone by, the first season with the new system in place. We all weren't real familiar with how it could work for us at that point.
 
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I just heard the answer directly on BDF Forest Net. Hey dispatch of a spot fire for the El Dorado fire in the San Bernardino Mountains made it clear. A unit was on direct speaking with BDF advising that he could not make contact with another unit responding to a spot fire and asked permission to use BDF repeat. As a result, all units responding to the spot fire were directed to BDF Forest Net repeat tone 4. This makes it clear that they are using direct as their standard rather than repeat.
 
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