Process folks follow when active fire incident occurs across agencies

tomas21

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Curious what folks typically do when there is a multi agency situation with our fires..

I have all my scanners setup with all Agency channels based on fire/police etc in either systems, groups, banks, etc based on scanner brand/model.

What do folks typically do to get all the active channels for the multi agencies isolated during a fire?

Today I was scanning my LACFD system, LAFD system, ANF system, and GFD system... some of the channels within those agencies are for other incidents but some are for the active incident i'm listening to... what do you all do to quickly isolate only the channels that are for the active incident on any of your scanners (Uniden, Whistler / RadioShack, etc?)

Just curious the best practices folks have adopted over time.
 

Eng74

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If the fire is in LA County they will give a com plan, they are pretty standard. The only problem is some times you need to be in the area of the fire to get most of the channels.
 

tomas21

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If the fire is in LA County they will give a com plan, they are pretty standard. The only problem is some times you need to be in the area of the fire to get most of the channels.
Thanks... I do understand that there will be an established com plan that you can either gather if published or heard over the radio but was curious how folks on their various scanners quickly establish scanning the freqs to monitor the active fire fight.
  • Do you have multi scanners for different agencies or purpose
    • Scanner 1 - Analog focused on either Air support
    • Scanner 2 - Analog focused on Agency x
    • Scanner 3 - Analog focused on Agency y
    • Scanner 4 - Digital focused on Agency z with trunking (if applicable)
  • A couple dedidicated scanners to some of your closest agencies and one focused on sweeping all agencies
  • A scanner that sweeps all agencies and then you quickly create a new system, group, bank etc for all the active fire frequiencies
Curious how folks quickly establish their scanning to monitor all the activities especially those with multiple scanners.
 

Safety21

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Thanks... I do understand that there will be an established com plan that you can either gather if published or heard over the radio but was curious how folks on their various scanners quickly establish scanning the freq to monitor the active fire fight.

Thomas,

When you say you understand that there will be a com plan, it's not apparent what you mean.

I presume you're referring to the VHF - Fire Ground Tac Configuration plan that can be found in the RR database: Los Angeles County, California (CA) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference

If you're not referring to that, whenever there is a fire with multiple agencies responding in the county, a com plan will be assigned using the VHF frequencies listed in the database. All fireground and air operations will be coordinated on these channels. As Eng74 said, you need to be in the area of the fire to hear them as the radios are generally not on a repeater and are low power. Sometimes, even if there is a fire in a single jurisdiction, say LAFD, these channels can also be assigned.

So, in answer to your question, I also have a separate bank for each of the agencies that you listed. In addition, I have a separate bank for the County VHF-Fireground plan. And I have a separate bank for Cal/FIRE that can be found here: California - Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference

Hope that helps.
 

tomas21

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Perfect.. exactly what I was looking for in how you all seperate the agencies for efficient scanning with there is an incident
 

tkenny53

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I generally follow air tach's, in one favorites bank, I have LACFD air and VHF, Cal Fire air, Forestry air.
I am pretty covered there. You can also get the TMAC 2020 app for the phone, it has a lot of info there.
I also can hear LACFD Command channels in Riverside county which is nice.
 

tomas21

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I generally follow air tach's, in one favorites bank, I have LACFD air and VHF, Cal Fire air, Forestry air.
I am pretty covered there. You can also get the TMAC 2020 app for the phone, it has a lot of info there.
I also can hear LACFD Command channels in Riverside county which is nice.
TMAC is awesome.. so tkenny53, you have one favorite that has all the Air tac's for LACFD, CalFire air, and ANF air?
 

norcalscan

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It also depends what kind of traffic you're looking for. Typically fireground traffic is concerned with putting the fire out. Air Tactics is concerned with slowing the fire down. Air/ground connects aircraft with the ground troops (coordinating bucket/tanker drops, giving the IC an eyes-in-the-sky update, etc.) Fire Dispatch is concerned with what/where/how to get resources to the fire. Fire Command is concerned with the bigger picture of a large incident and combines a bit of firegound tactics and dispatch logistics. Air Ops (such as Natl FF, Tanker Base, etc) is concerned with tanker logistics, diverts to new incidents etc. So you need to answer what are YOU interested in listening to? There is no wrong answer. And it may change depending on if you are simply enjoying as a hobbyist, concerned for family/friends in the fire path, or you yourself are in the fire path.

With that answer, then start organizing the scanner into banks/systems/favorites etc. Anything that allows you to turn on/off entire groups of channels at the push of a button or two. One key feature I enjoy on the Uniden side is the temporary lockout feature, which restores when the scanner is power cycled, something Whistler does not have. With that, for instance I have a CalFire Tac bank, with all the calfire tacs in it. Same with Air/Ground, Air Tactics, Command Nets, NIFC Tacs, NIFC commands, often used Extended Air Tactics freqs, etc. I can change the scope of what I'm listening to by turning each bank on/off, AND I temporarily lockout any channel with traffic not related to the incident. Soon the radio becomes pretty "focused" on that incident. After the incident, unlock all the temp lockouts by either powercycling the radio, or selecting that menu option.

If you have an intimate understand how your particular scanner's priority function works, you can ensure your most favored traffic never gets missed. I really enjoy Air/Ground traffic since the Air Attack is great at painting the picture in words for the IC on the ground. It's ordered appropriately in my programming where when priority is on, it's highest priority. Then Command channels typically have second priority, National Flight Following third. Even further, maybe I don't want A/G to be highest priority because someone is real chatty for a bit while I am tracking a VLAT on Air Tactics. I duplicate my groups so one has A/G channels with priority on, the other with the same freqs with priority off. The same with Command, the same with Dispatch/Local net, the same with Air Tactics. So with the priority function on, I can quickly steer the scanner to focus on exactly what I want, and who I want to hear come over other lesser traffic.

Granted, I'm in NorCal so primary agency is CalFire, any local government resources switch to CalFire comms for wildland incidents. I know SoCal has their comm plans and SOLAR for different regions, I've never had the pleasure to scan a major fire while in SoCal. So take my suggestions and wrap it around what freq resources others above me have mentioned.
 

tkenny53

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yes I do have them all in one bank/FL, I also have them in their own separate FL.
I use just top level of each Favorites list, I do not do the 1.1x. and so on, I have about 80 FL on my sds 100 and 200. Some of the numbering goes back decades...
 

ladn

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How I monitor depends on incident type, location, and other factors.

For instance, for brush fires in the Angeles National Forest, I'll have the ANF/LAC IAZ or AV/SCV or FOOTHILS plan (depending on location) active on one radio, the appropriate LAPD /LASD tac channel(s) and CHP on another radio, and maybe Air OPS VICTOR frequency(s) on another radio. If I'm close enough, I might have one of the VFIRE frequencies on another radio for fire line traffic, or monitor 123.025 for helco media traffic.
 

avascan522

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Also related, in the SoCal region, VFIRE 21 can be interesting to listen to for initial dispatches. Each of the dispatch centers (Ventura, LA, "Metro", "Angeles", "Metronet", and others) coordinate resource allocations and share comm plan info.
Being in a strictly LACo jurisdiction area, I mainly focus on the comm plan from the top-down. Admin, Command, Pri/Sec tac, A/G, Victor. I'll usually use my fleet of ham handhelds to do the monitoring. Depends how many radios I have with me. Ideally, Admin+Pri tac on one radio, Command+Sec tac on another, A/G gets its own, Victor goes to the scanner for AM mode receive. Then I may have another scanner or radio scanning local ham volunteer transmissions and local fire/PD responses apart from county's fire ops.
 

Paysonscanner

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Also related, in the SoCal region, VFIRE 21 can be interesting to listen to for initial dispatches. Each of the dispatch centers (Ventura, LA, "Metro", "Angeles", "Metronet", and others) coordinate resource allocations and share comm plan info.
Being in a strictly LACo jurisdiction area, I mainly focus on the comm plan from the top-down. Admin, Command, Pri/Sec tac, A/G, Victor. I'll usually use my fleet of ham handhelds to do the monitoring. Depends how many radios I have with me. Ideally, Admin+Pri tac on one radio, Command+Sec tac on another, A/G gets its own, Victor goes to the scanner for AM mode receive. Then I may have another scanner or radio scanning local ham volunteer transmissions and local fire/PD responses apart from county's fire ops.
Reminds me of late Hubby and I on the roof of our house with nearly every handheld we had (hams were Kenwood TH-F6's) and scanners PSR-500 and Pro 96 each on a different frequency. The Kenwoods could receive AM aircraft as well. This gave us a lot of flexibility. Two sets of binoculars as well. We could often watch the air show and sometimes fires started on SRA and moved onto FRA. Now you can have two sets of initial attack commands and tacs, but in CA they soon coordinated the two agencies right away to eliminate this, but you know how the initial response to anything can be a bit confusing at times. Sometimes local engines got involved for structural protection and Hubby was not on call to staff a Type 1 if the dept. had a request. That gave him the opportunity so be on the roof with me. He was so good explaining what we were hearing and watching.
 

Paysonscanner

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More to the point here, we had a bank (list) for federal natural resources, a bank for state natural resources, a bank for federal large fire and a bank for CDF large fire, which also included the OES frequencies, including the 154.1600 and 154.2200 fire nets, if I remember the freqs. correctly. Our small county local fire depts. were dispatched by CDF so we put local dept tacs in there as well. Then we had our own county frequencies in a bank, neighboring counties in their own banks. Also was a state highway bank with CHP and Caltrans in it. We also had an empty bank and we put an incident's comm plan in there. We always kept a spare bank at home, sometimes programs for other areas we traveled in didn't have enough banks to do so. We could hear a ton of wildland fire traffic where we were.
 

Mountain343

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Curious what folks typically do when there is a multi agency situation with our fires..

I have all my scanners setup with all Agency channels based on fire/police etc in either systems, groups, banks, etc based on scanner brand/model.

What do folks typically do to get all the active channels for the multi agencies isolated during a fire?
I think a lot of it depends on the number and type of radios you have, and how your ears are set up!

That last thing is really important because I know some people who can listen to multiple conversations at once and understand them all, and others who can only hear one thing at a time. It's just how some people are wired, and how some people adapt over time.

For myself, I have multiple radios and some sdr dongles and all of them are fed through multiple USB dongle soundcards into an old program that is no longer available called RadioLog.

Radiolog is great because you can control the audio volume, mute different ones, or all but one, but most importantly, it will decode the MDC-1200 bursts for LAFD and LACoFD so I can see who is talking when they key their mic. I can also tag them with what they're doing on the incident to give myself better situational awareness, so if LAFD Truck 39 Captain becomes Roof Division, it'll show that on the screen when he keys up and talks and ID's as roof. If Bat 3 is Zulu Division... it'll show that.

I'm not a big "scanner" person... I tend to leave my radios on a single channel because I have enough radios to do that, and the SDR's help with that a lot because they can cover a lot of frequencies with just one tiny $30 usb. For example, 1 SDR will cover the entirety of LACoFD Blue channels.

The channels I listen to constantly are my local PD fed through an sdr and DSD+ so I can have a nice log and tag the unit id's, LAFD 5, 8, 9, and 11. LACoFD Blue 3, 4 and 12, Verdugo FD Dispatch, ANF dispatch, VFIRE21, CHP West Valley, CHP Blue, LASD Aero-SUD and SUD LTac, and the LAPD Metro/SWAT channels scanning on my 396xt.

The BIG one is VFIRE 21 during fire season for brush fire notifications as avascan522 mentioned!

When an incident happens, I always switch the radios to the communications plan of the incident, the COMPLAN. I prefer fireground traffic more, so I'll keep those channels louder, I won't bother with a staging channel, and the command channel I tend to keep low the more traffic migrates to other channels.

For example on a brush fire in the City of LA with no mutual aid:
Command 5, Tacs 12 & 13, and LA City Air to Ground

But it's important to remember that they'll also use channel 11 for chief to chief traffic, so I'll have a radio dedicated to that one as well, butthe one on 5 will be the softest after the initial size up and directions. A/G will be the radio that has the best reception for it.

LA County or Mutual Aid will always get a V command channel, plus VFIRE tacs that I usually can't pick up. But if there's a good enough air show, I'll definitely have one or two radios dedicated just for A/A and A/G.

With fires in the county, or big enough brush fires, I'll also have a radio dedicated to whatever LASD Tac or Mutual Aid tac Law Enforcement is working on to listen for evacs and closures. I've tried listening to City DOT and find it meh/useless.

But even with all of that going on, I still keep one radio always dedicated to VFIRE 21 in case of another new fire, one for CHP Blue for sig alerts and pursuits, and one for my local PD.
 
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