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Hams Continue to Support Rim Fire Response

08/28/2013

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) volunteers are continuing to fill communication gaps for local emergency managers and responding agencies, 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,” and volunteers have been putting in “some long days.” 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. Tuolumne County ARES EC Carl Croci, NI6Z, said volunteers from Calaveras County ARES also have been pitching in. “We are still staffing the Red Cross Shelter and the community information phone lines with four ARES/RACES operators on the phones and two in the shelters,” Croci said August 28. “There are now there shelters open at the Tuolumne County Fairgrounds, and the Red Cross is using FRS radios between the shelters, so the shelter ops are also monitoring those radios as well. The EchoLink system has seen a decrease in traffic asking about friends and relatives.”

Fish has described the terrain in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties as “very, very, very rugged.” According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the Rim Fire now covers nearly 184,500 acres, with 23,500 acres burned over in the past 24 hours. The Rim Fire has now has claimed more than 110 structures. The NIFC says the fire has been crowning. The communities of Tuolumne City, Twain Harte and Long Barn and the Hetch-Hetchy watershed are threatened, as are power lines in the region. Evacuations and road and area closures are in effect.



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