Connecting Wildland Firefighters with FirstNet

By Gary McCarraher, Senior Fire Services Advisor, First Responder Network Authority

In the early morning hours of July 16, 2020, a fire broke out south of the town Glenwood in Washington state. Over the course of nine days, this fire – named the Bertschi Road Fire(link is external) – burned approximately 250 acres. Located in a rural area in the southern part of the state where cellular connectivity can be sparse and spotty, communications are often a challenge. Thanks to FirstNet, the only nationwide broadband network dedicated to first responders, this was not the case for the firefighters responding to Bertschi Road.

Requesting a FirstNet Deployable

Lieutenant LeRoy Sisley is a member of the Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team #10 in Washington and was deployed to assist with fighting the Bertschi Road Fire. As Lt. Sisley approached the area, he noticed he had no cell service beginning about 20 miles from the fire. He explained, “One of the first things I need to do on-site of a fire is call the communications duty officer in Boise to get air to ground and air to air frequencies and what my repeaters are going to be for my radio system. I also need to be able to order resources like additional crews and food. Nothing happens unless you have phone coverage, and we were in real trouble at this incident.” READ MORE


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