ARES/RACES Volunteers Activate for California Wildfires
[UPDATED: 2015-09-14 @ 2045 UTC] Information is still incomplete on Amateur Radio’s response to the ongoing wildfire emergency in California, but ARES volunteers in Amador County supported communications at a Red Cross shelter that’s housing evacuees from the Butte wildfire in Northern California. According to ARRL Sacramento Valley Section District 3 EC Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, ARES/Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) volunteers were called out late on September 9, and Amador County ARES Emergency Coordinator Daniel Edwards, KJ6WYW, had communications set up at the shelter by midnight. He also started contacting other ARES members and scheduling operators to work the shelter station 24 hours a day. Kruckewitt said he was called in early the next morning.
During the activation, members of Yolo County and Sacramento County ARES spelled the Amador County operators at the shelter. “This gave the Amador County members a break and for some time off to help their neighbors evacuate their positions,” Kruckewitt told ARRL. Edwards said 20 operators took part in the activation, with two operators per shift. The station at the shelter was active for 120 hours.
With more roads in the area reopening and some evacuees able to return home, Amador County ARES was released from supporting Red Cross shelter communication early on September 14. Kruckewitt noted that Calaveras County “If, for some reason, the fire again changes direction, it is possible that Amador ARES could be called out again,” he told ARRL. ARES/RACES volunteers also have been supporting communication at shelters in Calaveras County, in the ARRL San Joaquin Valley Section.
The Butte Fire is raging southeast of Sacramento in the Stanislaus National Forest region. Firefighters report “extreme fire behavior,” and mandatory evacuation orders as well as road closings remain in effect. Damage assessment teams have begun an evaluation of damaged and destroyed structures. The Butte Fire covers more than 71,000 acres and is 30 percent contained. More than 200 structures have been destroyed in the fire.
Meanwhile, the Valley Fire west of Sacramento has destroyed some 400 homes as well as many other structures. ARRL Sacramento Valley Section Manager Ron Murdock, W6KJ, said he has not yet heard from ARES organizations in Lake and Napa counties, but he has offered help, if needed there. A civilian fatality in the fire area was reported September 14, and local law enforcement is investigating. The fire has been threatening critical communication infrastructure in the Geysers area as well as the Adalin Power.
Murdock said Amateur Radio operators coordinated by Charlie Porter, N6JOA, at the University of California-Davis have been collecting veterinary supplies for evacuated domestic animals and livestock. “These will be transported to Petaluma and other unspecified locations in Sonoma County by members of the Class of 2017 Veterinary Sciences Department,” he told ARRL.