A Member Twice
- Aug 18, 2020
Well, don't pick up your ball and go home just yet. It has been mentioned that portable repeaters are used on large fires, there is no doubt and no one would dispute that. These repeaters are components of the "National Incident Radio Support Cache" (NIRSC) the largest radio cache in the world. All the repeaters are housed in fiberglass boxes. I think I remember the color of the box corresponding to the type of equipment inside, those being VHF command, UHF linking, UHF logistics repeaters, aircraft remote base stations, etc. I'm retired from the U.S. Forest Service and had 108 fire assignments in 8 states during my career. I didn't work in the comm unit on any fire, but I should have. My interest and knowledge in radio has always been keen. I also had administrative duties, as an investigator, on several national forests in California. I was on fires on the Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland, Los Padres, Stanislaus, Tahoe and Klamath National Forests while working/living in California. I have used and listened to 13 of the 18 national forest radio systems in the state.I suggested that the Service Net repeaters were portable repeaters to be deployed at major fires. Several people debunked this idea and suggested that neither I nor my source knew what we were talking about.
I can hear very noisy traffic on 171.500MHz. I do not hear LP dispatch on the input (so far). They have used that input (164.8250MHz) to talk to units in the Ojai and Mt. Pinos Districts. They are not using that input to talk to units in the Monterrey District - only 164.9125MHz.
The deployment of portable repeaters is common practice at major fires. During the Thomas Fire there were at least two on Santa Ynez Peak. I physically saw them.
Of course I'm intentionally causing trouble, if by trouble you mean reporting objective observations or stating ideas that don't conform to the presently accepted thinking.
I believe that I'm done with this thread.
I've also had access to dozens of Incident Action Plans and the ICS205 Communications Plans enclosed. I have never read one where the Service Net is used in conjunction with a National Type 1 or Type 2 incident, where the NIRSC is deployed. On Type 3, locally pre-organized incident command teams, the team has a choice to use the NIRSC cache system or not. It depends on the terrain, the coverage of the nets on a national forest, BLM district or national park and how much burden is being placed on day to day comms by the fire. I've been on a few of these and in most cases we used permanent repeaters on Service Net, never a portable one. On the Inyo National Forest there are two forest nets, north and south. with 11 repeaters total. There is also the Service Net on 3 repeaters, Glass Mtn., Silver Peak and Mazourka. The radio tech who was there while I worked on the Inyo wanted to add a service net repeater on Olancha Peak to get coverage on the Kern Plateau portion of the forest. I worked a couple of fires down there, so I agreed with him. Then the last net, the BLM net, which isn't used daily by BLM personnel, has 4 repeaters. A Type 3 or Type 4 command team would sometimes use these as command repeaters, again without the use of portable repeaters. I hung around the radio shop a bit while working on the Inyo, there weren't any portable service net repeaters, even in boxes.
Whoever said that "Fire Camp Service Net" is a throwback to earlier times was right. While the wording may be inferred as being used only in fire camps, that is not correct at all.
Now others have written here that they know or have talked to people who work(ed) for the Forest Service, but I did work for the Forest Service and have direct knowledge of many of their radio systems. One of the Los Padres NF fires I worked on was in security. I had the privilege (insert sarcasm) was to guard the entrance to whatever that Michael Jackson property east of Cachuma Lake was called. Various crews were found out what the entrance looks like (you would never guess it) and helped themselves to a driving tour. I was assigned to night shift to review each crew approaching the entrance to determine if they had reason to continue. It was so rewarding (sarcasm #2) dealing with these people, they would give me all kinds of expletives while expressing the poor decision by the IC team for placing me there.
Here is an interesting guide all about the NIRSC. That's a lot to say. I can tell you I never heard anyone say that on all the fires I was on. We used the term "NIFC cache." When I started in the early 1970's we called it the "BIFC cache" as NIFC was called the "Boise Interagency Fire Center" at one time.
National Incident Radio Support Cache User's Guide
EDIT, I remember! It was called the "Neverland Ranch." I never went to the ranch myself, I could have at the beginning or ending of a shift, but I had no interest.
EDIT #2, when I worked security in a camp, we had handhelds on the UHF portion of the NIFC cache. I think there are 6 or seven available "Camp Net' frequencies assigned. I had to hang around at staging areas before being released 3-5 times, such as the Orange Show down in San Berdo county. The staging areas were using a portable UHF logistics repeater to communicate with some of the Incident Command Posts, there's a whole set of frequencies for these and corresponding fiberglass boxes for them. The radio's came from the cache as there are very, very few UHF handhelds out on national forests, parks, BLM . . . . However, such repeaters are not usually set up, the cell phone saves the trouble when in big cities.