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USFS/BLM Travel Net

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BirkenVogt

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California only as "travel net". It is used interagency in that USFS, CDF, local government, etc. can all use it when they are enroute from one place to another.

Most commonly it is used on "direct" (car to car) where everyone is transmitting (and receiving) on the repeater output of 169.125. Since usually it is used for communicating short range between units of a strike team, task force, or other small unit on where to get gas, directions on where to turn, where to eat, etc.

I often monitor it and occasionally I will hear traffic on one of the repeaters (they are located statewide) but more often than not nobody ever answers the unit that is calling.

It used to be used by command centers for contact and redirection of resources that were enroute to/from somewhere, but since the advent of cell phones you never hear that any more either.

In other regions than region 5 (California) it is used like any other frequency. For instance it is one of the repeater output channels for the Ochoco National Forest (I think it has become the Deschutes-Ochoco since then)

Birken
 

SCPD

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This is only used in California. Only one other Forest Service Region I know of that has a travel net is the Intermountain Region (southern Idaho, Utah, southwest Wyoming, and Nevada) and it only extends into Utah and southern Idaho. Nothing in Nevada and Wyoming as far as I know. There are 20 repeaters on the system which utilizes 168.175 output and 164.825 input with telephone autopatch and sub-audible access.

Travel nets were conceived and built in the late 70's and 80's with the redirection of fire resources being a large concern along with communication for non-fire personnel when traveling for meetings, training, and details on other Forests. The last 10-15 years has seen a shift away from the use of radio and more use of cell phones. Other regions have also designated "travel nets" that don't include repeaters or any way to call base stations. In Region 3 (Southwest Region - Arizona and New Mexico) they use 168.350 as a travel net. Using a frequency other than the NIFC tacticals is the goal when units traveling together are on the road. Engine (five engines and the strike team leader's vehicle) and dozer strike teams (two lowboys and the strike team leader's vehicle) and the three vehicles used to transport crews (2 ten person crew buggies and the superintendent's pickup) need to talk with each other and for years they would use Tac 2 (168.200) or their home unit's frequency on direct. This caused interference with other Forests and with other fires so they try to discourage it in favor of the travel nets.

I used to monitor travel net all the time when I went on fires and still do in retirement when I take a road trip. I refused to have a cell phone at work because I did not want to have desk jockeys calling me all the time when I was in the field. I was taking a crew from a fire on the Los Padres to one south of Idllywild on the San Bernardino and unknown to me had been given an order to divert to a fire on the Angeles. We drove all the way south of Idllywild, arriving at 2 a.m. to a fire that had been contained early in the evening, and found everyone in camp sleeping. We bedded down for a few hours and got up with the camp about 5 a.m. to find we were supposed to be on a fire north of Castiac Lake on the Angeles. We had to drive across the L.A. Basin once again. South Ops never tried nor was it indicated that we should monitor travel net to listen for South Ops giving diversion orders. They only did so via cell phone, so we had to cross the L.A. Basin in evening traffic and then cross it the following day during the morning commute. Not what I would call efficient. Since none of the crew's handhelds had the travel net programmed in we used good old Tac 2 or Crew Net as it was called for about 3 decades to communicate what lane to be in to make the transition from one freeway to the next.

Ironically, being the travel net was conceived by the Forest Service, the only units I ever hear using travel net is CDF and that just being between each other. The repeaters are nice in case someone gets out of direct range. I've never heard South or North Ops or any Forest dispatcher on the net, even though the original plan for the network showed all the repeaters linked into each center depending on its location.

By the way, the year I took the crew out and did not have a cell phone was 1996. By the time I retired I had been told I had to obtain two different items, a cell phone and a pager with a message screen. I dragged my feet and ended up retiring before the ax fell as far as the due date for me to get them. I ended up retiring a few years early on a medical disability on very short notice. I had a voice pager that worked on Forest Net and when dispatch wanted me they paged me. The non-fire people wanted easier access to me and wanted me to have a newer pager and the cell phone. I felt that when in the field I should concentrate on field tasks and not answering phone calls from admin type people who really didn't need me until I returned to quarters and returned their calls. The other times I took out crews I just took over someone's USFS cell phone and listed that number with dispatch as the point of contact, so I never had to take unnecessary trips again.
 

MCIAD

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Just a quick footnote, California is losing the Travel Net this winter. It was supposed to go away this past winter, but R5, CDF, and other local Govt. agencies pleaded with the powers that be, and got a 1 year reprieve. But, the frequencies are needed by the the Homeland Security folks, and they get what they want, at the expense of everything, or everyone, else.

I'll post more when it happens . . . probably January or February sometime.
 

BirkenVogt

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Well that's the way it goes with fire frequencies. Use it or lose it. Though you would think that with the narrowbanding they could get a new frequency and squeeze it in somewhere.

Although that once homeland security takes it over, they are never going to use it either. And if by some remote chance a "homeland security" type event occurs, the same thing that always happens with a seldom-used radio system will happen again...it will not work. For systems to work well they need to be operated almost daily or radios will get programmed wrong, people will forget it exists, equipment will crap out and no one will notice. Ah that's just the way it goes.

Birken
 

BirkenVogt

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MCIAD said:
Just a quick footnote, California is losing the Travel Net this winter. It was supposed to go away this past winter, but R5, CDF, and other local Govt. agencies pleaded with the powers that be, and got a 1 year reprieve. But, the frequencies are needed by the the Homeland Security folks, and they get what they want, at the expense of everything, or everyone, else.
Is there any information on the net regarding this?

Birken
 

inigo88

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CRAZY! I've had this freq in my scanner for two years and never heard a peep on it. I was beginning to think it was taking up space and then tonight I heard a full repeated conversation from several counties away (using tone 4 167.9) of what sounded like a strike team coordinating on how to get to the Altamont Pass fire in the bay area today (they were talking about taking the Crows Landing Exit, unless this is a new fire).

Always fun to hear a new freq come to life, especially since I just read this thread. :)

-Inigo
 

BirkenVogt

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Well make a liar out of me, with all these new fires popping up I have had it in the scan list and heard quite a few short conversations pop up this morning.

Birken
 

BirkenVogt

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Further information, I am hearing traffic several times a day at work (a fire station with a good location, very good antenna, and a very good radio receiver)

I am out of the loop with CDF these days but I am wondering if there didn't come some directive to start utilizing the freq more often to stem off attempts to steal it by whomever.

Use it or lose it is the rule in radio

Birken
 

MCIAD

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Nope - still scheduled to lose it this coming winter sometime.

There has been a big DECREASE in repeater usage because of the advent of the common cell phone. It is still used car-to-car for strike teams and other equipment/personnel traveling up and down the state. There has been quite a bit of activity for so early in the season, and that may be why you are hearing so much now.
 

SCPD

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inigo88 said:
CRAZY! I've had this freq in my scanner for two years and never heard a peep on it. I was beginning to think it was taking up space and then tonight I heard a full repeated conversation from several counties away (using tone 4 167.9) of what sounded like a strike team coordinating on how to get to the Altamont Pass fire in the bay area today (they were talking about taking the Crows Landing Exit, unless this is a new fire).

Always fun to hear a new freq come to life, especially since I just read this thread. :)

-Inigo
The tone 167.9 is tone 7 in the California wildland fire system. The closest tone 7 for you is located on Saint John Mountain. Tone 4 is 136.5 and the nearest to you would be Mt. Diablo.
 

inigo88

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Interesting. Actually I'm unfamiliar with the tones (thank you for identifying them geographically for me) but I added that because I heard one of the guys in the engine say that he was on tone 4 initially when he called the second engine. Could that have been on the input?
 

SCPD

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inigo88 said:
Interesting. Actually I'm unfamiliar with the tones (thank you for identifying them geographically for me) but I added that because I heard one of the guys in the engine say that he was on tone 4 initially when he called the second engine. Could that have been on the input?
I don't think they have the output toned, but I could be wrong. It wasn't as of a couple of years ago. Tone 4 is on Diablo and maybe that is what you were hearing.
 

BirkenVogt

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There has never been an official output tone but that is not to say that the repeater could not be passing the input tone over, or have one on its output anyway.

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MCIAD

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DHS is getting the frequencies, but I do not know if they are planning on keeping the repeater system. I don't think so, but I have been wrong before.

As for the output tone, it is CSQ - always has been. It is almost a requirement when you have so many different input tones that the output has to be CSQ.
 

BirkenVogt

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Recently CDF has gone to tone squelch on their repeater system. Not many are acutally utilizing it though. All repeaters on the same frequency will put out the same tone so a moble receiver has no problem with it.

As soon as we get hand helds which can do both OST and per-channel decode, I will be switching all our radios over to decode tones on CDF and any other frequency that might have it. Before that happens, we need to get some more BK GPH-CMD models though. $$$

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MCIAD

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Yea- that's new this year. Eventually, CDF is going to tone-project all their units, but that may not take place now until 2010 when they redo all their frequencies to Narrowband, and whatever modifications they are planning. I have heard that there are a couple of Ranger Units (I know that is not what they are called now, but CDF will always have Ranger Units to us old-timers) done, but I do nto know which ones.
 
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