U.S. Forest Service Channel Plans

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SCPD

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Twelve years after joining Radio Reference I've finally gained (barely) a rudimentary understanding of how to write Wiki pages. I want to let those interested that I've begun to write the channel/tone plans for each National Forest in California. I've also written a narrative about the Forest Service and its radio systems in the state, or the Pacific Southwest Region (R5) of the agency. As of this post, I have written the introduction and the plans for the Angeles, Cleveland, Eldorado and Inyo National Forests. It takes about one evening to write up each National Forest and may take less time as I become more practiced. For those who have asked me about this info, please have some patience. My cognitive processes turn slowly.

These channel/tone plans had been a part of the database some years ago when a decision (inconsistently applied I've observed) was made to eliminate the duplicate listing of frequencies. Some of us would like to know what channel, for example, the regional project/fire net is in the channel lineup for each National Forest in the region. Unfortunately, all the information that had previously been written up was deleted. I haven't had the energy to rewrite it ever since that happened. The database does not have a complete listing of repeaters either and the material I'm writing does.

I think the channel/tone lineup is important as I listen very carefully to all radio systems. When someone states "you are very scratchy on tone 5, switch to tone 2" I want to know what repeaters are being referred to. If someone says "let's see if we can copy each other on channel 6," I don't want to try to scan everything I have in my natural resources bank trying to figure out if I can copy them also, something that can be eliminated if the channel plan is known.

The Wiki is a cumbersome, detailed and less than straightforward system of writing. It will take me some time to complete. When I do I will also write channel/tone plans for each of the National Park and BLM District I have information for.

To navigate to it, go to the database, click on California. Under the California Areawide Frequencies listing click on United States Forest Service. Find the Wiki tab at the top of the listings and you will find all 18 National Forests listed on one page. If anyone sees any errors or omissions please let me know and I will update the page.

I will eventually link this page to the "collaboration" (now there is a confusing term in this context) section of the main Wiki index page.

I hope my information will be useful to some.
 

scottyhetzel

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Awesome, keep up the good work !!!! I can hardly wait for you to get to BDF. I like how you organized the list. Much appreciated that you found your notes and are sharing your knowledge.
 
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JayMojave

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Hello Exsmokey: YES that's a great call, please do so....

Listening to the Forest Service is hit and miss from my experience. I like listening to the Air Boss or Air Supervisor calling the shots, coordinating during a fire, from a observation airplane. This job calls for A person to think outside the box and way past your nose. Dealing with other pilots as to where to make a water drop, Helo's, Ground Crews. And Forest Management telling they needed equipment and personal needed for the next day and such.

All these activities DO NOT happen on the same frequency, but the Air Drops, Helo's, Ground Crew (Bulldozers) Chiefs, and Forest Service Management traffic are on different frequencies, and is quit a task to track all these frequencies down. When I was wanting to listen to all of it I used three Scanner radios, one to scan the FS channels, one scanning the aero band. and the third scanner on a single frequency listening to the Air Boss or Supervisor talking to all the other airplanes.

Writing down the frequencies and programming these "HOT" frequencies into a bank into the scanner radio, was a big help the next day as some frequencies where used and some had been changed. The new bank of frequencies was great indicator as to if the same or other frequencies where used.

I have experienced The F.S., LAFD, and others who support fighting the fire, sometimes use channels / frequencies not in a data base or list for fire fighting use. Its very impressive how well the different agencies get along with each other, well done...

Looking forward to your frequency list, great going, good luck.

Jay in the Mojave
 

ecps92

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Altho much of the documents Smokey and others have been entering into the Wiki come from internal documents, I would urge ONLY those frequencies actually HEARD (Confirmed) be sent tot he RRDB.

Many of the DB Admin's do an excellent job, but still there have been FCC dumps submitted and processed.

Fred, I hope we have a moderator step up and enter all your freq. into the DB here at RR, since you are kind enough to submit all the key info. Into the wiki for ALL to enjoy .
 

SCPD

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Progress

I just finished the Plumas NF information. This is the 12th forest I've completed. Just 6 to go! I appreciate everyone's comments of appreciation and compliments. It was a good year as to finding a source for this material. A number of people gave me a shout or stopped by this year an I was able to fill in all the blanks and I'm grateful as I've had years when I've gotten not much at all.

I will try to do one NF per evening. Then I'm going to go back and reduce the narrative sections by being more direct and concise. That will be a big job. My plan is to take a little time off from this thing and return to tackle the NPS and BLM. Past that I'm not sure.

I'm trying to do my part to make the Wiki more informative. It should read like an old printed directory or better. It falls short of that and it should be better as this site has put a lot of paper and ink directories out of business. Dan Rollman's Southwest Frequency Guide and the other 3 or 4 he published. The format was good and he seemed to understand the way different agencies were organized. I look at some of the database and Wiki and realize not everyone has the same level of understanding.

Thanks again for the vibes!
 

SCPD

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Altho much of the documents Smokey and others have been entering into the Wiki come from internal documents, I would urge ONLY those frequencies actually HEARD (Confirmed) be sent tot he RRDB.

Many of the DB Admin's do an excellent job, but still there have been FCC dumps submitted and processed.
I don't see a lot of data going to the database as a result of my work. The database gurus eliminated channel plans 5-10 years ago when they purged duplicate frequencies from it. I'm not really providing new data, rather I'm showing how the radios on each forest are channelized. We don't really have to worry about listing NIFC Tac 1 for example, as we've been listening to those for years. Many people have heard the R5 project net for as many years as it has been assigned.

The tone information in the database is not even close to the detail I'm providing. We really can't verify much of that by listening as some NF's have a common output tone.

Once I'm done I will print out the Wiki pages I wrote to find any differences between them and the database.

By the way, my source is not internal documents. Sometimes I get chicken scratches on a notebook size piece of paper, sometimes I receive the comm plan from a fire and sometimes I get to spend a little time with a handheld. Every once in awhile I receive something very substantial and I tell my wife "oh my, I've hit the mother lode!"

Recovery from surgery, especially when it is major, really stinks. When you live in the mountains summer is short enough as is (12 weeks or less) and I've missed this one. That is very disappointing, especially when I consider the beautiful bicycle rides that are part of the summer here. While it is highly likely that all of the nasty stuff is gone, I may have to have one more surgery to repair some collateral damage. That will cause me to lose much of my cognitive functioning again for awhile so I guess I'd better get as much done on these Wiki pages as possible. I don't mind being laid up in winter, except I feel bad when my wife has to do all the shoveling.

In case you are wondering what a summer is at 8,000 feet, I define it as daytime highs above 70 and nighttime lows above 40. I attended a recreation management training session back in the late 70s where the District Ranger of the Leadville Ranger District on the San Isabel National Forest gave a presentation. Leadville is in the bottom of a valley at 10,000 feet. He made this funny statement: "someone in this room saw me out in the hall and asked me how the past summer was in Leadville and I had to be honest with him. I told him I missed it as I was in the shower at the time."
 
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Mike_G_D

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Possible error in the wiki for BDF - channel 5 which is R5 Project Net lists different frequencies for transmit and receive when I believe it is supposed to be simplex.

Listing shows 167.6625MHz as Rx and 168.6625MHz as Tx when I think it should be 168.6625MHz for both.

-Mike
 

scottyhetzel

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Hi Fred,
Thanks again for the wonderful info. I really enjoyed BDF. I got a couple of questions?

1. Where are the look outs in BDF ?
2. The p.l. Don't look right for onyx and Bertha. I understand they are near big bear.
3. What's is the purpose for communicating with. ANF and CNF ? Man power? Resources in a pinch ?
4. Does BLM and JTP follow along with the same P.l. And BDF?
5. Why is BDF so darn busy compared to the US?
6 I'm sure the forest academy does not understand 10% of what you know.


Thank you so much Fred.
 

ko6jw_2

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The information in the Wiki on the Los Padres NF contains some statements that are not entirely correct. LPNF dispatch rarely, if ever, dispatches for incidents on the Channel Islands. The islands that are in Santa Barbara County are dispatched by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. These are mostly medical emergencies requiring medevac. I can recall only one or two fires on Santa Cruz Island. Dispatching the Chumash Fire Department is also not entirely correct. This "department" consists of one or two type 3 engines and it is a "cooperator" with the USFS. In other words, they are paid to respond to fire incidents in the forest. They DO NOT respond on their own reservation - Santa Barbara County Fire does that. Vandenberg and Hunter-Liggett have their own fire departments that only respond to incidents on the forest when requested.

With the exception of the Santa Ynez Peak remote base, all repeaters in the forest have an output PL of 103.5. Currently SY Peak is 110.9.

You have not mentioned the 406-408 Mhz link repeaters. These are quire useful for monitoring traffic around the forest, but are a secondary system to the microwave links.

Overall, excellent information
 

SCPD

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The information in the Wiki on the Los Padres NF contains some statements that are not entirely correct. LPNF dispatch rarely, if ever, dispatches for incidents on the Channel Islands. The islands that are in Santa Barbara County are dispatched by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. These are mostly medical emergencies requiring medevac. I can recall only one or two fires on Santa Cruz Island. Dispatching the Chumash Fire Department is also not entirely correct. This "department" consists of one or two type 3 engines and it is a "cooperator" with the USFS. In other words, they are paid to respond to fire incidents in the forest. They DO NOT respond on their own reservation - Santa Barbara County Fire does that. Vandenberg and Hunter-Liggett have their own fire departments that only respond to incidents on the forest when requested.

With the exception of the Santa Ynez Peak remote base, all repeaters in the forest have an output PL of 103.5. Currently SY Peak is 110.9.

You have not mentioned the 406-408 Mhz link repeaters. These are quire useful for monitoring traffic around the forest, but are a secondary system to the microwave links.

Overall, excellent information
Thanks for your observations. I'm still trying to dig up information and will be editing for some time to come. It is hard to tell who is actually doing the dispatching as the California Mobilization Guide lists those entities that can actually be dispatched by a listed center and then those who are the ordering point for those entities. For example, the Mob Guide lists Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Golden Gate NRA and Point Reyes National Seashore under the Mendocino NF center. It also lists the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. They don't do the actual radio dispatching for the NPS units listed above. However, they do the radio dispatching for the Wildlife Refuges. On the Sierra National Forest nothing lists the center (shared in a location with CDF) as doing the dispatching for the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, but it does. It is pretty difficult for me to tell. On the Sierra NF I have the advantage of being able to receive one of their busiest repeaters. I've also visited some of the centers, some after retirement.

I have made a few assumptions and am also remembering those fires and investigations on other NF's I traveled to. I have some information that is more than 10 years old, but it was official at the time. Some of it still applies and some of it has change.

Once I finish the NF's then it is on to the National Parks, BLM Districts and the paltry information I have on a National Wildlife Refuge or two. I think the USFWS info is no better than that which has been in some forum threads, but the database does not reflect that. I probably have better info on the USFWS outside of California than I do in this state.

This is going to be a work in progress for 3-4 weeks. Please, everyone help me out with this.
 
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SCPD

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I don't have much information on the links, that isn't really the concern of a radio user. Some forests were reportedly dropping some microwave links when they were leased from private vendors. The cost was the biggest factor as those private vendors, AT&T and similar started to raise their prices once the USFS started to depend on them. Some of those paths have been replaced with UHF links. Some NFs link their repeaters between the microwave backbone with UHF rather than using true remote bases.

A lot of the information I have on UHF links is pre narrowbanding and the shuffle of UHF frequency assignments. It used to be that the higher frequency of a pair was the downlink, but that has been reversed. They used to be 4 MHz apart and are now 9 MHz apart. Whatever information I collected is worth nothing now. I should start a thread with some post narrowband UHF link information I have. If people could listen to the frequencies I have we might figure out a thing or two.

P.S. When the Inyo had one net and one remote base all I had to do was listen to the downlink as it repeater the uplink. I could hear radio traffic from the Kern Plateau all the way up in Mono County. I can listen to the north net downlink, but I can hear all the north net repeaters anyway. The south net remote base is on Mazourka Peak near Independence and I can't receive anything from it. "You don't know what you got till its gone."
 
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ko6jw_2

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UHF Links

I don't have much information on the links, that isn't really the concern of a radio user. Some forests were reportedly dropping some microwave links when they were leased from private vendors. The cost was the biggest factor as those private vendors, AT&T and similar started to raise their prices once the USFS started to depend on them. Some of those paths have been replaced with UHF links. Some NFs link their repeaters between the microwave backbone with UHF rather than using true remote bases.

A lot of the information I have on UHF links is pre narrowbanding and the shuffle of UHF frequency assignments. It used to be that the higher frequency of a pair was the downlink, but that has been reversed. They used to be 4 MHz apart and are now 9 MHz apart. Whatever information I collected is worth nothing now. I should start a thread with some post narrowband UHF link information I have. If people could listen to the frequencies I have we might figure out a thing or two.

P.S. When the Inyo had one net and one remote base all I had to do was listen to the downlink as it repeater the uplink. I could hear radio traffic from the Kern Plateau all the way up in Mono County. I can listen to the north net downlink, but I can hear all the north net repeaters anyway. The south net remote base is on Mazourka Peak near Independence and I can't receive anything from it. "You don't know what you got till its gone."
I have a friend who is a contact radio technician for USFS who provides me with information. The UHF links in the database for the LPNF are new frequencies that are the result of a new band plan. They are also new transmitters with higher power than before. I guess they will be around for a while. The ones I can hear are on Santa Ynez Peak. I don't know if there are others elsewhere in the forest. By the way, I remember when the LP Forest Net was on 36.98Mhz wide band.
 

SCPD

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Hi Fred,
Thanks again for the wonderful info. I really enjoyed BDF. I got a couple of questions?

1. Where are the look outs in BDF ?
2. The p.l. Don't look right for onyx and Bertha. I understand they are near big bear.
3. What's is the purpose for communicating with. ANF and CNF ? Man power? Resources in a pinch ?
4. Does BLM and JTP follow along with the same P.l. And BDF?
5. Why is BDF so darn busy compared to the US?
6 I'm sure the forest academy does not understand 10% of what you know.


Thank you so much Fred.
Here are my answers:

1. Buy a forest visitor map. That way you won't just know their names, you will know their locations as well. They cost about $9-10, are plastic coated and, this might be the best thing about them, they show the township, range and sections. Standard procedure is to announce a dispatch with both a lat and long and the "legal," which the the township range and section. At the time the initial dispatch is sent out you will hear something similar to "north of the Mill Creek Station, tentative legal, township 1 south, range 4 east, northwest quarter of section 22, 34 degrees 14 decimal 59 minutes by 114 degrees 2 decimal 68. With a forest map you can find the township which are numbered north and south from a baseline. Ever hear of baseline road in the San Bernardino area? Yep it is the on the baseline of the San Bernardino Base and Meridian for the public land survey in southern California. Most of the rest of California is measured from the Mt. Diablo Base and Meridian. Ranges are numbered east and west from the meridian. Each township-range square has 36 sections, one square mile each. The forest map will make listening to fires so much more meaningful, so go out and buy one, be there or be square.

2. Onyx is on the eastern boundary of the forest and next to a state highway. I think it is the road between Big Bear and Lucerne Valley . I believe Bertha was a lookout at one time. Anyway, my information shows Tone 5 for Bertha and Tone 6 for Onyx.

3. The Angeles and San Bernardino NFs have each other on their pre-planned dispatch system. For example, Engine 33 located a mile or two west of I-15 on CA 138, will roll to fire reports on the eastern side of the Angeles, such as the Wrightwood area or the Crest Highway west of there. The closest resource first principle of the fire service applies. Engine 38 or 39, I've forgotten which, quartered in the Big Pines station north of Wrightwood is on the auto dispatch system for the San Bernardino as well. As for the Cleveland some engines on the San Jacinto District might be on the Cleveland's auto dispatch for a second alarm on the Palomar District. Each forest might be listed as having the first available engine strike team for the other forests. Hotshot crews run all over the country and often are the first crews available for next wave once a fire starts looking like a medium or major rager.

4. USFS policy is to use the first 8 standardized tones nationwide. Full compliance is about 95+%. Many are using the full FIRESCOPE program 16 standard tones. The Park Service, Forest Service, BLM and US Fish and Wildlife Service use the standard 16 in California as does CDF. At some point, I predict that all wildland fire agencies in the U.S. will get on board with the standard 16. Incompatible tones were cited as a problem on the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013 where 19/20 members of the Granite Mtn. Hotshots were killed. About half of the repeater access tones used by the Nevada Division of Forestry are not on the standard list of 16 tones. Now, you might also be asking, it wasn't clear, if a BLM repeater on Onyx and the USFS repeater on Onyx will be the same tone. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no and more often no. So the same tone set of 16 is used by the BLM California Desert District and Joshua Tree NP. Yosemite NP and the Northern California District of the BLM utilize the same 16. It's universal in CA and now more work needs to be done nationwide.

5. The most obvious reason is Joshua Tree, Mojave, Death Valley, the San Berdo NF and the California Desert District are within a day's drive of the 16+ million (not counting San Diego Country) megalopolis of southern California. Think of the Imperial Sand Dunes and how much off highway vehicle recreation occurs there. The BLM has two ranger stations for the Dunes alone and I don't think any recreation complex in the BLM in the rest of the U.S. even has one. The BLM land and desert National Parks get used heavily in the fall and winter and the San Bernardino NF in the spring and summer, however, the San Berdo has the best ski area in southern California so it gets use in the winter as well. Also consider the major attractions like the Palm Springs tram. Most of it is located on the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Berdo and as people are riding an oohing and ahhing at the scenery they are recording recreation use on the NF. Some of the northern and eastern portions of the BLM CA Desert District are used by Las Vegas residents also. The Colorado River doesn't count as the entire corridor, east and west shores are located on the Colorado District of the BLM, Arizona State Office. Southern Californians are spoiled, they have the most public land nearby of any of the large metro areas in the U.S.

6. I doubt that, although I am, by nature, very curious and ask a lot of questions when I'm traveling; when I used to go to fires; conducted claims and personnel misconduct investigations; and went to training sessions. People in the public land management business tend to be incredibly well informed when it comes to geography. People transfer around the country and a lot of good information gets passed around. Thus I've heard some about the management workload of the Pisgah National Forest in South Carolina. I know something about how the "Bob" is managed in Montana, the Bob Marshall Wilderness that is. I worked on the Kaibab National Forest and spent time in the park going to fire training as the western training facility of the NPS is the Albright Training Center at Grand Canyon. Lots of opportunity to mix and mingle.

Land management types like to travel in remote areas and they might not know the Louvre in Paris at all or haven't visited the coliseum in Rome, but they know where "the Maze is." Hint, google Canyonlands National Park. There are people who know a whole lot more than I do. I had at least 6 years of career left in me when a major illness struck me resulting in an early retirement and in those 6 years I could have learned a lot more. I was planning on making my last transfer the last time I moved and going "out to pasture" as so many people in fire, recreation and law enforcement in USFS Region 5 do. They transfer to a place with a fraction of the pressure and know how to solve problems that have vexed other lower stress ranger districts and national forests for years. What seems major to them is something R5'ers have done in their sleep. It can be very satisfying to be able to use your experience to help other parts of the west.

I also received a B of Science Degree in Forestry. Great professors, neat stuff to learn and a camaraderie that the other schools on campus didn't have. We had folks from Connecticut, the Navajo Reservation, Texas, New York, California and other locations. You have a lot of time to learn about other parts of the country that way. I did a lot of backpacking during college (and up to a few years ago until the knees gave out) and you talk with other hikers who have logged miles in states you've only looked at on maps. I also spent 4 weeks at Clemson University at a mid-career recreation management course. We took field trips every weekend. I earned 12 graduate credits in one month. It was neat to see Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites and some of the "cannon ball" National Parks. You know, the little park units with a cannon and a stack of cannonballs next to the flagpole in front of the visitor center?

Now the two regions in the eastern portion of the U.S., Forest Service Regions 8 and 9, not a lot of people from the west transfer back there and the reverse as well. A few hardy souls from the west will transfer into the more densely populated east and humidity of the south along with being around people who put an "r" at the end of every word, but most return. That goes both ways. One of the big issues on the Pisgah NF was how often to mow the campgrounds. They have to, you ought to see the snakes!

As for radio system knowledge, if you've worked on fires on the Cleveland NF half a dozen times, you get an understanding of how their system works. I spent five weeks on the big fires in Yellowstone in 1988. I programmed the park's frequencies in my King and was able to scan them. After 5 weeks you get to know a thing or two.

LIke I say, people who have spent 30 years on a career or in fire management full time know a whole lot more than I do.
.
 
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scottyhetzel

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Thanks

Thanks Fred for spending the time on your replies, priceless. I'm looking forward to buying a map and checking sites out. Also looking forward to seeing your info on BLM CCD district. I read the wiki 3 times and still trying to grasp the info..

The ranger stations at glamis are Gecko and buttercup . I use to ride their a lot till I got air lifted out of Brawley. The LEO were: San Diego sheriff, imperial sheriff, USFS ranger, and BLM ranger and CHP el centro. On presidents holiday it would be radio nightmare. Hardly any interop... Had my scanner on close call mostly. The helicopter would be on CALCORD.

Scott
 
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BirkenVogt

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1. Buy a forest visitor map. That way you won't just know their names, you will know their locations as well. They cost about $9-10, are plastic coated and, this might be the best thing about them, they show the township, range and sections. Standard procedure is to announce a dispatch with both a lat and long and the "legal," which the the township range and section....
CalTopo - Backcountry Mapping Evolved

If that does not come up right then you need to use one of the visitor maps options on the right pull down menu.
 
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