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Wasatch County Ham Radio Operators Help out in Fox Bay Fire

The sirens went off around 2:15PM Saturday afternoon in Heber and I heard vehicle with sirens one after another, after another, after a dozen, but I kept working in my yard in the heat 95F. Around 4:15 my wife came home quickly after leaving on an errand indicating that our CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) unit was activated - hmmm, big notice, something is up. An evacuation center at JR Smith Elementary school, 200 E and 500 N was designated.

I quickly changed clothes went with a friend (Joe KE7BLE) who is a HAM and Utah Co ARES Level 1 certified and drove to the school. Lt Bradley (Heber PD) asked if I would go to the Command Post located at the Stillwater lodge at the Mayflower exit. I said sure and arrived at the Command Post around 1700 hrs

I got there, parked and we took in what was happening. They wanted a HAM Radio link between us and the school. I call my Assistant Emergency Coordinator (AEC) (I am the EC) and asked him to issue a staffing net and then later to go to the school himself since we could not get anyone on the radio repeater

It was our first ARES call up and my friend, Joe, and I helped where we could. Later we did pass traffic back and forth to the school where the Red Cross was setup, and learned some lesson on what to do and what not to do.

After the 2100 hr meeting where I just listened to the various agency personnel give information and status reports, the evacuation was still in effect and as you see in the KSL news above, it will be until tomorrow Sunday (update: 4PM sunday it is to be lefted)

At our 2200 hrs net on the 147.360 repeater (in Summit co) we had about a dozen HAMs check in ready to staff 4 hr shifts at the Heber school, the Sheriffs command post (CP) and the Rec center in Park City. But the Incident Commander, and the fire lead said the worst was pass, they would watch the fire over night, no structures were damaged (smoke was still thick) and they no longer required the HAM radio link. We shutdown the CP HAM station and we went to the school

There I found my AEC (Tim, KE7USH) still very busy since the Red Cross was having some issues communicating with their people in Park City, so the HAM radio via the 147.360 repeater became the comm link for them - in real time. My AEC said it was interesting to watch the staff and the LEOs come into his area to listen to my reports to him where they could get information - they couldn't get other info via their cell phones, nor their dispatch (since dispatch was busy with regular operations traffic). The HAM link provide some useful information. Was able to read to them the Press release #1 as soon as I received it, which provided very useful information to the staff at the shelter and to the evacuees there.

I believe we made an impression with our served agencies and with some personnel. This was a sad event (but no lives nor structures lost) but it was great to see how our radio link become useful in the event, not in the firefighters and LEOs operations, but in providing information to people in the school shelter, since they had no other way to get it. Great practice for us. Over the course of 6 hours we got more of our members checking in, but it was hard initially to get our members attention after radio calls, and text messages were sent out. I finally used my cell phone to call Tim and get him on the radio. His radio BOB was great and he was setup within 20 some minutes at the school. I think he was a excited to actually use the equipment and the skills he has been working on.

This was very good exercise for our ARES section.

We will have a WasCoARES face-to-face on Monday Aug 20, at 1600 hrs at the Heber Police Department training room. All ARES members (and others) are welcome to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to capture things that worked, what didn't, to present to others what was learned, ways to improve, etc.


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