Hams Called In to Aid in Local Fire Response
[Updated Aug 27] Officials in Tuolumne County, California, have tapped Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) volunteers to help fill communication gaps as part of the response to the gigantic Rim Fire.
Tuolumne County RACES Radio Officer Phil Fish, WB6GGY, told ARRL that with telephone circuits overloaded and cell service spotty, ham radio is keeping open the lines of communication. ARES-RACES members are helping to support communication between local government and the American Red Cross shelter. “They were just hungry for hams,” Fish said of local emergency management officials. “We’ve had a great response from the local ham community.” The Red Cross is sheltering on the order of 100 evacuees.
Other ARES-RACES volunteers are helping to handle telephone traffic in the county emergency operations center. Fish said about two dozen hams have been volunteering and putting in "some long days." Tuolumne County ARES EC Carl Croci, NI6Z, said volunteers from Calaveras County ARES also have been pitching in. Fish described the terrain in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties as “very, very, very rugged,” and he expects the Rim Fire is unlikely to be out for months.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), as of the morning of August 27, the Rim Fire covered nearly 161,000 acres, with 17,000 acres burned over in the past 24 hours. The Rim Fire has destroyed some two dozen structures. The fire is considered 20 percent contained. So far, fighting the Rim Fire has cost more than $27 million. The NIFC reports the communities of Tuolumne City, Twain Harte and Long Barn are threatened. Evacuations and road area closures are in effect.