andre kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Tue Oct 30 08:03:46 CDT 2007


As fires raged through parts of the San Diego area and other areas in
Southern California, ham radio operators did their part to ensure the
safety of residents either affected or threatened by the fires. ARES
groups in San Diego were activated on Monday, October 22 and continued
to assist their served agencies until early Wednesday morning. Sixty
hams were called to service by the County of San Diego's Emergency
Medical Service. 

According to ARRL San Diego Section Emergency Coordinator James J.
Cammarano II, KG6R, hams assisted at the San Diego Medical Operations
Center, six trauma centers and 16 community hospitals. Hams served as a
resource, Cammarano said, "to be used in case primary circuits to
hospital communications were lost due to either overload or power
interruptions." In addition to these 60 amateurs, another dozen or so
hams were activated by the Red Cross. 

ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD,
learned that San Diego ARES volunteers were activated and now they are
in standby mode. "They are ready to go at a moment's notice, but there
are currently no plans for re-activation," he said. As in any emergency
situation, information can quickly change and the ARRL will continue to
monitor the situation and inform members if the situation changes.

As the fires started to spread, hams started a FIRENET on the Palomar
ARC 146.73 MHz repeater. Howard White, KY6LA, of La Jolla, who was among
those who served as net control operator under extremely stressful
conditions, disseminated a preliminary log of his experience. Excerpts

"With flames starting to engulf the county and no active single source
of information, as best as I could determine Charlie NN3V stepped into
the information vacuum to start the 'FIRENET' as an ad hoc operation on
Sunday afternoon. Early contributors included Gayle K6GO and Gary W6GDK.
Initial operations started by collecting fire information as to fire
location, wind directions, shelter locations and initial evacuations.
Hams provided eyes and ears on the ground where the danger was. Soon
however the fires seemed to be heading down to the Poway area so Charlie
and the other Poway hams needed to evacuate....

"Day One: Is the fire near us? Where is the head of the fire? What
directions are the heads going? What are the winds doing? Should we
evacuate? What roads are closed? What about our animals? Where should we
go? What should we take? What is the route to avoid the flames?  Can you
help us find missing people or pets? Can you help us get barrels of
water for animals? Can you help us find food and water? Can you get the
police to deal with looters?

"Unlike Katrina, the questions and answers did not abate at night. It
was nonstop. Terry K3PXX needed routing around the fires to evacuate his
Animal trailer.  Terry reported on Fires as he drove through Poway and
back to San Marcos EOC. ROARS hams had evacuated Ramona and the 147.03
repeater and were looking for help to be routed safely out of the area.
Fires broke out in Coronado Hills in San Marcos. People needed to be
evacuated. Brian KF6C asked where to evacuate his 4 children. San Marcos
EOC needed to be activated and FIRENET held the fort for them until they
could get there and became operational to evacuate San Marcos. George
KG6IDE tries to drive up to Ramona to evacuate elderly parents but we
turn him back to avoid the flames...

"0130 Tuesday: N9XF reports flame proceeding down 76 from Fallbrook. Tom
KI6IET, who is blind, but stays at his post as my backup net control,
needs to be evacuated. Evacuation arranged ok. Rob WA3IHV calls from his
office at Palomar hospital to tell us his family was evacuated OK and
horses survived... 

"2100 Tuesday: FIRENET hams drive to Qualcomm Stadium and load trucks
with food. Dan leads ham relief convoy with food and supplies to Mira
Costa College. Fire victims at shelter express gratitude for first food

"2350 Wednesday: KG6VVN signs off as net control as the 146.730 repeater
runs out of fuel and goes off the air..."

Orange County update: Acting Section Emergency Coordinator Cathy
Gardenias, K6VC, provided this update on the situation in the ARRL
Orange Section as of October 25: "Slide Fire/Green Valley is 17%
contained; Grass Fire is 70% contained. Santiago Canyon Fire was 50% but
was reduced last night as it turned and headed for the Riverside County
border of the Cleveland National Forest. 

"Amateur Radio operators have been utilized. The San Bernardino County
Fire EOC has been using ECS and ARES members in the EOC to monitor
communications and other jobs needed. At the command post at the Rim of
The World High School near Lake Arrowhead, ECS and ARES members who have
been fully trained in all ICS and S190 (bush training) are handling
communications and other needs. This is according to Jeff W6JJR DEC for
ARES San Bernardino County and a Public Information Officer (Miles) from
the EOC in San Bernardino. The EOC is at Level III at this time.

"SATERN [Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network] Amateur Radio
operators at all the shelters have been volunteering their time as non
communicators, but as helpers for those who are in need."

As of Friday afternoon, CNN reported that 14 of the nearly two dozen
fires were under control. Nearly 800 square miles has burned in Southern
California, and seven deaths have been blamed on the fires, with dozens
of injuries. 

Ron Roberts, Chairman of the San Diego Board of Supervisors estimates
that 560,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes, and thousands
more were evacuated in San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties. 

Firefighters received help from Mexico, the state and federal
governments and even inmates from California's prisons. About 7000
firefighters were battling the blazes, including 2300 inmates from
California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to
Governor Schwarzenegger. 

President Bush visited the area on Thursday and declared a federal
emergency for seven counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San
Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. FEMA Administrator
David Paulison said that the President's action authorizes FEMA to
"coordinate all disaster relief efforts, which have the purpose of
alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the
local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required
emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to
save lives, protect property and public health and safety and lessen or
avert the threat of a catastrophe." Schwarzenegger estimated that at
least $75 million in federal aid would be needed. -- Some information
from The Weather Channel and CNN

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