San Francisquito Canyon Fire

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JayMojave

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San Francisquito Canyon near Grass Valley, near Santa Clarita Fire: 17 Aug 08

I tried to post this yesterday during the fire around 3 PM but must have done something wrong. This is a good set of frequencies for anyone in the local area and even not so local area as the air operations can be heard probably 50 miles away.

Frequencies used:
169.200 Air to Air Command and Control, putting the air attack tankers on the fire.
170.000 Air to Ground
135.975 Helo operations
122.95 122.925
172.375 Angeles National Forest Net (repeated on 169.950 406.425)
123.975 Tanker Ops or Tanker Base as they called it, located at Fox Field Lancaster Ca

Other frequencies used but not identified as to its purpose:
169.95 Bull Dozer Ops, they called the “Dozers”
168.200
415.425 Angles National Forest channel
172.8125 heard a few key clicks, no traffic

Brovo 5 was the tactical command in the air running the show. He was heard on most all the frequencies. And this guy did a bang up great job.

I always use two scanners for near by fire traffic. One scans the known frequencies and the other searches the aero and upper VHF Band frequencies, Brovo 5, the Air Tactical Commander had a distinct voice that could be easily identified. This made the finding of other frequencies easy to track down on the two scanners.

Jay in the Mojave
 

SCPD

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Nice report Jay! Some comments for clarity. It is "Bravo", not "Brovo", as the international phonetic alphabet is the source of the call sign. Did Bravo 5 identify with the call sign "Air Attack" or "South Air Attack" at any time yesterday or today? The name of this fire is "South."

169.950 is the repeater input for the Angeles NF Forest Net and the output is 172.375 as you cited. Whatever you heard on 169.950 should be coming in on 172.375 also. This unless you can't hear the repeater they might be keying up. Do you have a scanner with PL or tone search? If you could tell us what tone is being heard on 169.950 then we can track down which repeater is being keyed up using this frequency.

The UHF frequencies of 406.425 and 415.425 are paired with 406.425 being the downlink and 415.425 being the uplink. I can't quite figure out why you are hearing this from your location. These would be system link frequencies and would link the dispatcher with the hub remote base on the Forest or link that remote base with a repeater. Since the Angeles uses microwave to link quite a few of its sites, I would think the UHF frequencies might be used to link one repeater with a microwave linked remote base. If dispatch is linked into the system via UHF then there would not be a microwave dish on the tower at dispatch at Fox Field. The next time I'm down in L.A. I will have to get off the freeway and drive past Fox Field and look at the building dispatch is in to see if there is a microwave dish on the roof or on a tower. I invited myself in for a tour 4-5 years ago and don't remember if I saw a dish there.

The last time I was in L.A. was about 18 months ago and I was still hearing dispatch using simplex with some field units, indicating that they were using remote bases in some parts of the Forest and when that is the case those sites are usually linked via microwave. There have been some rumors of the Forest Service dropping its use of microwave in some locations due to the expense of maintaining it vs. using UHF links, so your reception of a UHF link is of interest to me.

I've not seen 172.8125 listed in conjunction with the Forest Service or incident management. The clicks you are hearing may not be related to this incident at all.

122.950 is not in my listings either. Do you remember what you heard on it?

It is great that you have a scanner in search during so many incidents down there. The information gained as a result could not be obtained any other way.
 

SCPD

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By the way, Bravo 5 was the lead plane on the Sherwin incident up this way a couple of weeks ago. Air Attack 15, from the Sierra NF was the air attack or "air tactical group supervisor" as listed in ICS. The air attack people are usually very sharp and experienced. They often make a huge difference on a fire.
 

JayMojave

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Hello Exsmokey:

Thanks for the kind words. I am sure I mis spelled Bravo, being a gradate from LA City School System, and being a little behind the 8-Ball at times.

Ok 169.950 is the input, and 172.375 is the output, but I do not know why I am still hearing them repeated on 406.425, at times the two scanners will lock up on these frequencies and a strong echo can be heard. I do not understand it either. Yes I have a tone search capability I believe with the BCT-15 scanner. I will have to look up the function on the Easier to read instruction manual.

The Piute fire several weeks ago used 172.8125 as the air to air tactic’s frequency. They were broadcasting it over 123.975 Fox Field Tanker base. So all the aircraft could switch over. I believe Bravo 5 or 6 was running that show. Yes good I call, I am sure, the air to air commander needs to have a professional bed side manner talking to these pilots and coordinating the Tanker Aircraft, Helo's, keeping the ground informed as to whats happening, and many other things he is working that I don't know about.

172.6125 is another frequency that popped today, again being used on the Piute Fire. It appeared to be a air to ground use.

122.950 I heard Bravo 5 talking to I think Helo's, and then switched over to 122.925. Bravo 5 voice is very easy to pick out in the aero traffic, as he is giving direction in different speech as compared to other aero traffic, with many channels locked out to allow a fast search of the aero channels.

Bravo 5 was simply identified as Bravo 5, I as remember his call sign. He was a busy guy. But I will listen next time for "air attack"

I don't know how all the workings in the USFS work, but its very obvious that you need to scan and search the frequencies at the same time. It helps when guys like Bravo 5 has a distinctive voice that can be pulled out of the clutter very quickly.

I posted this to let the others around area the have a set of frequencies that allowed them to listen in. I remember that years ago we tried to listen in and could not hear all the traffic as we just had the published frequencies. A good scanner operator will scan and search as this is the only way I have been able to hear most all the traffic, that is very interesting. I even feel like its day when the "air tactical group supervisor" goes home around 8 PM.

Thanks again for the good word, you also have done a great job of telling us all how the USFS works.

Jay in the Mojave
 

Progline

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It was interesting that the comm plan for this fire, when issued over the air by LACoFD, included "NIFC TAC 2". I've never heard that before!

South Ops was really busy yesterday on 166.5625, arranging air assets with ANF. They got a tanker out of one of the fires on the LPNF, but it had to refuel at Santa Maria first. They also let ANF know that Bravo 5 was enroute as air boss.
 

JayMojave

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Hello Progline:

Ok good cal there, yes that frequency had escaped me and I was not searching below 167.0 MHz. It is now programmed in, and being monitored. What is the South Ops channel?

I can here Angeles, Porterville, Los Padres, and San Bernardino USFS Traffic so I have to be careful what I am listening to. Its way to easy to get wrapped around the axel listening to say San Bernardino putting a small fire mixed in with say Porterville fighting a much larger fire. So I have to watch it. I have plans to build a High VHF Band Yagi Beam.

Were are you located I am in Lancaster Ca, were would this repeater or base stations be located?

Thanks for the input.

Jay in the Mojave
 

SCPD

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Jay, here is one of the most recent threads about the South Ops dispatchers net:

http://www.radioreference.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114106

I also started a thread about a fire start here on the Inyo National Forest in which I explained the process for incidents to obtain unused federal frequencies for use on incidents. It appears that the most frequent use of this process is for obtaining air to ground frequencies. The 172.xxxx frequencies you have reported have been for air to ground use.

You are giving us some great information relative to wildland fire, especially for federal agencies. You are in a good location to hear what is going on on the four National Forests you mentioned. I'm located in a place where I can hear the Inyo NF, the Sierra NF, and some traffic on the Toiyabe NF. I can also hear some traffic from the BLM Carson City Field Office, as well as the Owens Valley Division of the San Bernardino Unit of Cal Fire. I can also pick up one Cal Fire Command 1 repeater over on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. So I can get wrapped up in listening to a good amount of radio traffic when fires start popping up.

Do you ever listen to the BLM's California Desert District on 166.375? Another frequency you might try is the National Park Service's Mojave National Preserve on 169.750. It would be located to your northeast with repeaters on Providence Mtn., Clark Mtn., and Christmas Tree Pass near Laughlin. You might be able to hear the first two from your location, although I'm sure it would take a pretty good outside antenna to do so.

You should also be able to hear quite a bit of traffic on the Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) frequency of 151.430. Another state natural resource agency to listen to is the Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and in your area they are on 868.5375. They identify their frequencies by color and the one I just gave you is labeled "Bone." They also use "Sand" for the lifeguards at Silverwood Lake and it is 866.5625 and "Gold" on 857.9375 for the rest of the operation of the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area. There are repeaters located on Hauser Mtn., Government Peak, and Wyley's Knob on Bone and at Bailey Peak on "Gold." Traffic is pretty light on these frequencies, but the situations that natural resource agencies face can be very interesting. DFG and DPR have pooled their resources for providing dispatching and they have three dispatch centers in the state. "Northern" is located near Folsom Lake outside Sacramento, "Central" is located in Monterrey, and "Surcomm" is located at Lake Perris State Recreation Area. You will hear Surcomm doing the dispatching in your area.

The traffic on these state frequencies is not as exciting as listening to fires, but can sometimes involve situations that are quite interesting. Often a situation on a National Forest can involve Fish and Game as well as the Forest Service and the DFG can be a source of additional information for an incident.

Don't worry about your spelling as you are giving us great reports. You are not satisfied just listening to the published frequencies, but search out everything in use. Keep up the good work!
 
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SCPD

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I forgot to include this link in my last post:

http://www.radioreference.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114573

I explained how the communication unit leader on incidents obtain frequencies for their incidents. The great listening reports you have given us, combined with some from listeners in the Salinas Valley, adjacent to the Monterrey Ranger District of the Los Padres NF, and some provided by listeners in the L.A. Basin during last years fall fires, have indicated that air to ground and air to air (FM) frequency assignments are the most variable. While one can search for these frequencies, another way to obtain them is when the dispatcher advises "air attack" or "air attack" advises all the air resources of these frequencies. I always listen to the traffic to and from air attack very carefully and write down the frequencies I hear them assigning to an incident. Those frequencies often provide the best listening you will get from an incident.
 

SCPD

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It was interesting that the comm plan for this fire, when issued over the air by LACoFD, included "NIFC TAC 2". I've never heard that before!
NIFC Tac 2 used to be called "crew net." Back when I started with the Forest Service in the early 70's, crew net, or 168.200 was the only ground tactical frequency available, other than using simplex Forest Net. Simplex Forest Net, or channel 1 on most Forest Service radios, was the only tactical frequency available on Forests that only had two channel radios, one channel for direct and one channel for repeater use, both on Forest Net. As radios began to be replaced in the mid 70's, a third channel, most often "crew net", was added to a lot of radios. Sometimes 4 channel radios were purchased and the fourth frequency was often 168.625, now known as "National Air Guard", then known as "Air Net." All air to air and air to ground traffic was on this channel. The only radios with Air Net were typically those of the Fire Management Officer (FMO) and the Forest dispatcher. All the rest of us had to call either the FMO or dispatch and have them relay our traffic to the aircraft above us. Much could be lost in translation when it came to asking an aircraft to drop in a certain location for it to be the most effective. Adding channels to radios used to be pretty expensive as additional crystals had to be purchased for radios with increased channel capability. This situation began to change in the late 70's when aircraft began being equipped with the Wulfsburg radio, which was the first synthesized radio in use by natural resource agencies. The Wulfsburgs had a dial and any frequency within range of the radio could be "dialed in." Some Forests with a lot of fire activity even had Wulfsburgs installed in the vehicles of FMO's and Assistant FMO's as battelion chiefs were known as in those days.

If we wanted to communicate with the dispatcher or another unit on an adjacent National Forest, we could not do it because our radios did not have enough channels to put that Forest Net in them. Often, a lookout located near the boundary of adjacent National Forests would have a radio from each Forest. We had to call those lookouts to relay our traffic to the other Forest. Some Forests did not even have repeaters and we had to call lookouts to relay our traffic to the dispatcher or other mobile units. In the winter, with lookouts not staffed, we were out of luck. Things have come a long way and just in time, as fire management is more complex now, by a factor in the tens, than it was in the early 1970's. Increased fuel loading resulting from a century of putting out every fire and global climate change are the largest factors, combined with the explosion of home building in the wildland/urban interface.

NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center) in Boise, Idaho, is the grandaddy of all wildland fire dispatching and coordination. The Forest Service and BLM used to have seperate sets of tactical, command, air tactical, and logistics frequencies. They combined them about 10 years ago into a system that now had seven channels for each of those functions. Direction was issued about 2 years ago to begin referring to, what had previously been known as "crew net", as "NIFC Tac 2." That is the way the frequency shows up on the alphanumeric display of all the radios used by natural resource agencies. There are now four new frequencies for "intra crew" communications. These frequencies are used by crews, separate from the tactical frequency assigned to them for the fire, to communicate with members of the crew, mostly for crew logistics. I added these frequencies to the Wiki site under "National Incident Radio Support Cache", found under the heading "Common Frequencies."
 

JayMojave

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Hello Exsmokey:

Thanks for all the info there I did read over it several times. Greatly appreciated.

I am not a great speller or writer as some times I am interrupted and have to finish a posting or reply later and have lost the train of thought. I have written many technical papers on various things but have spell check that will scan over and correct most of the misspellings.

I would suggest that you write a paper (or even a book) on the USFS and how it works to fight fires and such. From a laymen’s view (mine) it appears it can be a Wild West show at times fighting fires as many different fire fighting originations are used on one fire. Like this last fire at San Francisquito Canyon, CHP directed traffic, USFS and LACOFD, Tanker Base at Fox Field Lancaster Ca were involved and who else? This is quit a collection of agencies working together. And only a few times I have heard the boys going nose to nose on something. Has to be very impressive.

Yesterday I was out at Rosemound Ca and I noticed a single Air Tanker Aircraft returning back to Fox Field. It was coming in from the North West probably returning from a mission, supporting some other fire fighting effort somewhere else, I guess.

The scanning technique for listening in is sometimes is close to being a EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer) it takes a while to get all figured out. I built and put up a Yagi Beam Antenna yesterday for the mid VHF Band 144 to 152 MHz to listen in on some traffic up north near Ridgecrest Ca, I will see how it works. Hoping to reduce some traffic east and west of me.

Thanks again for all the great info. New frequencies have been programmed in.

Jay in the Mojave
 
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