Wildland Fire Safety & Health Reporting Network

SAFENET Event Information
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20170505-0001        [Corrective Actions]
Event Start Date:
05/03/2017 1526
Event Stop Date:
Incident Name:
3 B's
Fire Number:
Local Unit:
Rapid River
Incident Type:
Incident Activity:
Line, Support
Stage of Incident:
Initial Attack
Position Title:
Center Manager 
Management Level:
Resources Involved:
HIF E.611 and a visiting resource MOF E. 651 
Contributing Factors
Contributing Factors:
Human Factors:
Other Factors:
Describe in detail what happened including the concern or potential issue, the environment (weather, terrain, fire behavior, etc), and the resulting health issue.
Dispatch received a phone call from Delta County 911 informing us that we had a grass fire that was spreading to the woods. They were requesting assistance. They were uncertain of jurisdiction. Dispatch attempted to dispatch 2 engines. One is a visiting resource, MOF E. 651 and a local engine HIF E. 611. The field units mentioned could not hear dispatch and communication was very broken and intermittent. Conversely, dispatch could not hear the field units either, if and when we could hear the respective units calling, the communication was very intermittent and broken to the point that we could not establish solid communication. Dispatch attempted to call the respective units on two different repeaters, with the same outcome. Dispatch could over hear FS 1879 on the State 800 MHz radio communicating with HIF E. 611, that 2 VFD’s were on scene and working the fire, no structures or property threatened, they were working to get the fire suppressed. Dispatch was able to communicate with the engines on the State 800 MHz system. The size up was conducted over the telephone from the I.C. who was on E. 611.

Dispatch tried several different avenues to establish communication. Multiple Repeaters were utilized. The 800 Mhz system was utilized and luckily there was cell phone coverage. Luck should not be a strategy. As cell phone coverage is very spotty in the remote areas of the Upper Peninsula.

Multiple tickets were opened in 2016 in reference to the same issues. A ticket was recently opened in Mid to Late April to address this same issue.

The Radio Technician set the “sensitivity” levels to be the most sensitive that they can be.

Currently the field is operating on the 800 MHz as a solution as dispatch could not here the field units call into service this morning.

Additional incidents have occurred in the past, most recently on May 2nd, a pair of non-fire employees working in the field together but at different survey points needed to use the radio to communicate with each other when they did not meet up at the established rally point and time. The radio system would not function in their location to allow them to talk to one another or the district Without the ability to communicate, their only option was to activate their spot locater device and request assistance from other district personnel. The situation was non-life threatening but highlights the effect and potential risk to all employees working in the field.

The newly hired radio technician has been trying to identify problems and schedule repairs to the system but funding has been limited and his workload here as well as other units is more than he can accomplish without long wait times. A radio technician position has been vacant on the Hiawatha NF for some time now and recruitment has been difficult. Emphasis on recruiting this position and possibly offering incentives to potential candidates may be needed to attract candidates to the area.

Communication is the single most universal safety item we use. It is in every JHA we adhere to, it is in our ten standard fire orders and eighteen watch outs and is one of the four components of LCES. Our radio system cannot be relied upon to provide this key safety component in its current condition.
Immediate Action Taken
Reporting Individual : please describe actions you took to correct or mitigate the unsafe/unhealthful event.
Multiple Repeaters were attempted.
800MHz Michigan Public Safety Communications System was utilized.
Cell Phones were utilized.
FMO initiated phone call to Dispatch Center Manager.
Center Manager walked to Radio Technicians office and put on speaker phone for conversation with FMO.

Per the Radio technician.

On 13-14 May 2017 (Saturday-Sunday) the Hiawatha west side radio system will be getting work done. While we are climbing and working on the towers and related equipment the radios at the sites we are working on will be turned off.

The work will include installing a radio link between the SO and Whitefish tower to get us off of the leased phone lines. If you are unfamiliar with Whitefish tower it is the control point for all repeaters on the west side. We will also be replacing the antenna and other related hardware on Tie Hill repeater.

Corrective Actions


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