| The following email were sent out to the fire management group:|
All, The communication shop is changing frequencies of the Sequoia F1, F2, F3, F4, and F5 channels (transmit and receive). I have the new frequencies as well as the old (current) frequencies combined in new groups so that you will have continuous communication once I clone all of your radios (HT’s, mobiles, bases). Contact me at your earliest convenience so I can get around to everyone before the end of next week. [Tower crew] thinks he and his crew will be starting on the KRRD towers (repeaters) by Wednesday of next week. I will be available tomorrow (Friday), Saturday Oct 1st , and all of next week to get this done. My goal is to have it all done by the end of Tuesday. It will be easier for you to bring all of your equipment (minus the base stations) to me in Kernville, but I can travel too with my laptop and cables. Come see me!
Tones 8 and 3 were completed yesterday for the northern Districts. Today’s plan is to switch out tones 4,5,7,and 10. Tomorrow (Thursday) tones 9 and 11 will be completed. What does this mean for you? If you are using channels 2 or 4 today and you are talking on tones 4,5,7 or 10 then you will continue to use the old channels 2 and 4 that have been put in your radio until you hear notification from Dispatch and/or me at which time you will switch to the new groups in your radio to use the new channels 2 and 4. But remember, if you are on the new channels this afternoon and then need to use tones 9 or 11 you will have to change back to the old channels 2 and 4. Clear? Please call me if you need further clarification, thanks.
No one I talked to really understood how this was all going to work or the progression of the repeaters.
During an initial attack the previous day there was a lot of confusion between KCFD and USFS based on when we were to be using the "new" frequencies. KC had already reprogrammed and were under the impression we were already using them. However, we were not. The FS repeater is supposed to the command channel in an interagency response. KCFD was not able to communicate on it. This caused a safety concern with ground resources and aircraft.
The following day on the Burlando fire the same thing happened, but even more frustrating is repeaters were being worked and switched over during the fire. The forest now has some repeaters on the old frequencies and some on the knew. Depending on the location of the fire this could cause several issues. The radio tech tried to take one of the repeaters off line during the IA but was advised by fire personnel to stop. Towards the end of the fire a call came out from dispatch advising that 2 more repeaters had just been activated with the new freqs. That means if we are on an incident in the local area we may have to switch banks back and forth just to communicate between repeaters that have new and old frequencies.
We understand there was a reason that the frequencies needed to be updated, but in the middle of fire season when we are running calls is the worst time. Not knowing all of the contributing factors from above I am unsure of what we could do better next time. All I can speak to is the worry and frustration it caused for the resources on the ground.