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N6NKJ and Roxanne
is VIP Red Flag Patrol? Printed in QST
August, 2008 pdf
Paul Rios, KC6QLS
I had the privilege to
interview Roxanne Provaznik, Fire Prevention Specialist II, with
the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also
known as CAL FIRE. She is the person that activates the VIP Red
Flag Patrols through Rich Beisigl N6NKJ, Amateur Radio Liaison
to CAL FIRE. He then gathers Amateur Radio Volunteers to conduct
the duties of Red Flag Patrol.
VIP Red Flag Patrol is short for Volunteers In Prevention Red
Flag Patrol. A Volunteer In Prevention is Amateur Radio Operators
driving around being additional Eyes and Ears for CAL FIRE. The
Volunteers report back to CAL FIRE by way of Amateur Radio. This
has been going on since the start of the program. In 1976 a few
years after the 1970 Laguna Fire, Battalion Chief Doug Allen approached
Art Smith, W6INI about helping with Red Flag Patrols. These two
men created the pilot program which is now used state wide. They
were the fathers of supplemental communications who created the
entire program by using private civilians/radio operator’s
cooperating with CDF. Also, they started the animal rescue program
and both programs are now used state wide.
Roxanne started with CDF at the age of 18. She wanted to be a
fire fighter, passed all tests and qualified, but was put into
Prevention due to bad eyes. She then became a Seasonal Fire Prevention
Assistant and ran the Volunteer Fire Prevention Program which
includes Red Flag Patrol. She has been with CDF 27 years now and
currently has the title of Fire Prevention Specialist II. She
runs the Volunteer Prevention Program.
She is the third generation of fire fighters. Her Grandparents
started the Spring Valley Fire Dept. and her Grandfather was a
Chief and Grandmother drove a fire engine and her father was Chief
of the Department in the 80’s. Roxanne’s husband is
Fire Captain at CAL FIRE.
Question: What is the origin of Amateur Radio in Red Flag
During Holiday Patrols like the 4th of July or Labor Day where
a lot of people with days off gather, the potential for fires
is greater, and so we have patrolling. There are three types of
patrols that we have and the law enforcement patrol is very low
key, and we put you out there in civilian clothes being our eyes
and ears in key locations to write down personal descriptions,
vehicle descriptions and gather as much information as you can
in a very inconspicuous way as you are just civilians out there
and can gather a lot of info so it is a very effective Civilian
Patrol. When people are off work and fire potential is high, we
have a “high visibility” and “see and be seen”
type of thing, called our Holiday Patrols, such as the 4th of
July. The Red Flag Patrol is sort of a weather driven event -
wind driven. Typically we get our high winds from September through
April and we get winds with high temperatures with low humidity
and so the slightest spark can start a fire. So if we can have
the radio operators out there in the back country and spot the
fires quickly, we can respond to them and send everything we have
but the kitchen sink and stop them before we get another Cedar
Fire. The goal is to get the fire spotted and responded to at
an early stage, and this is where Amateur Radio Operators fit
We have eight baskets for Amateur Radio Operators. In the baskets
are binoculars so we can look for smoke and behaviors that may
start fires. We have hand held Kestrals so we can check the weather
conditions and log them. We have first aid kits, if anyone does
happen to get injured, we have ice chests so they can have ice
and cold water. We have compasses so they can figure out where
they are and where the smoke is relative to their position. We
have forms so they can answer all the questions that I am going
to be asking them as far as how big the fire is, what color is
the smoke, so they can get all those questions answered when they
get on the air so we can get the resources out to them quickly.
Question: Do you have a Story about Amateur Radio?
We have been very fortunate that we have had very quiet patrols,
which is exactly what we want. We did have an F14 crash west of
Highway 67, and I believe it was one of the Amateur Radio Operators
that called it in. So we were able to get our resources out there,
the Navy was able to get their resources out there to the scene,
and that is the whole idea to identify what is happening and get
resources out there to respond quickly.
Question: When a
fire is in progress, what jobs do Amateur Radio Operators do?
Amateur Radio Operators’ job is to help with communications.
In the good old days,
CDF only had 1 – 2 frequencies, and they were over taxed.
We used Amateur Radio Operators in various positions to help with
the over load. Due to better cell phones and better radios, we
have better communications. But what we do now is have supplemental
communication but just on the information side of it. So basically
at base camp we put an operator with the team information officer
and an operator with every single field information officer and
they can communicate back quickly. So when I have a rumor or a
question I can get a hold of them and so when we are getting a
whole lot of questions at the information center and a header
coming up, we can get answers. Amateurs help us focus on communications
back to base and give timely accurate information. Cell phones
don’t always work, but radios are effective. Also, because
what you do is listen to radios, there are people available listening
whereas with cell phones we could end up having to leave voice
mails, and so we don’t have that quick effective communication
like the radios have.
In 1985, The Morretti Fire was one of the first times to use supplemental
communications on a fire, and it was the first time the radio
operators were coming back with all these great stories about
how they were able to step over burning logs and chase fires,
which put you operators in danger. So that was not good. We needed
help without putting operators in danger. So because of all the
neat tales of the operators, and I realized that if some of our
employees weren’t smart enough to keep you guys out of harms
way that we were going to have to create a fire safety training
for everybody so that the Amateur Radio Operators would realize
what is dangerous and they could feel safer on the fire lines.
Ideally, Amateur Radio Operators should never be put in a dangerous
situation. The fires are so unpredictable and by being aware of
what to look for they can be safer and stay out of danger. So
we developed a 6 hour training course after this fire to keep
everyone safe and have had no injuries so far. The success story
of training is the Sycamore Fire in 1994. The Amateur Radio Operators
were on Highway 94 and allowed to be there as Supplemental Communications.
As they were going down Highway 94, they saw a fire down below
them and remembered their training and left the area, the fire
came up over the Highway where they would have been.
Question: What type of equipment do we need to wear?
When base camp is set up they are issued “Nomex” which
is what firefighters wear, the protective yellow clothing, and
they will be issued that on the fire lines if they are in that
situation. Hopefully, they will never be in that situation where
they need it, but if they are, that will be issued. We recommend
long pants, long sleeve shirts, all cotton because synthetics
melt, and that if they are in a situation where there is an incident,
they will stay safe and clothing won’t add to their injury.
Question: So how does the call out work?
When winds are blowing county wide, temperatures are up, humidity
is low and conditions are right for a fire that is when we know
we need it. I will call Rich Beisigl, N6NKJ because he is the
Red Flag Patrol VIP Coordinator and then it is out of my hands.
He will make the phone calls. It’s a one stop shopping.
I make one phone call and Rich coordinates all the operators to
work together. I call Rich and he makes everything happen. Then
all we simply do is just get people where we need them, resources
where we need them, etc. If we are running patrols, I call Rich
and tell him what we need, where we need them, and he makes it
happen by coordinating everyone to be there. I don’t worry
about it. He handles all the radios and all the communications.
And the nice thing is that you are the experts on the radio and
we are not. So it works out very nicely. You guys handle the radios,
Ken Tagami WA6BCC did it before Rich, and we are extremely happy
with all of the good service we have gotten over the years. We
reimburse you for gas as funds are available, but it is all out
of the goodness of your hearts and your willingness to volunteer
and help your community, and that is commendable that people want
to help out on their own time and on their own dime to help their
community. I admire what you guys are doing. I get paid to do
this, but you guys do not, and again I appreciate all of the time
and hours you guys put in over the years. Whether it is ARCEC
or REACT or ARES or another group, it is a great bunch of people
with a “Can Do Attitude” and, I am extremely happy
with everything you guys have done over the years.
Question: What do you see in the future?
Technology is changing a lot and making things easier along the
way. It takes the people out there driving and seeing and being
seen that we need – high visibility. And even though we
have all the high tech radios and gear, it is still just the basic
– just two people driving the Red Flag Patrol and seeing
what is going on and calling it in and getting the resources out
there quickly to handle the situation quickly to avoid another
Cedar Fire. So again, it still just goes back to basics and people
driving around spotting the fires and getting resources there
quickly and doing what they have been doing for so many years.
Rich added that the Ham Radio Operators he talked to felt it was
the most worth while event they had ever been out on and they
are looking forward to participating again.
And another thing that I have noticed is that the participation
has been increasing on the Red Flag Patrols. Therefore, we need
to get more equipment as we have had more volunteers than in the
past. Also, last patrol we had extra people in the vehicles.
We have 10 incident management
teams statewide, and we bring one in and take over management
of the fire. We still have informational teams, but it is the
management team who makes the calls and directs resources. We
give the team a fact sheet on the availability of using supplemental
communications, but it is up to the management team as to who
gets called in to handle the event. I can use low key people,
but the team makes the decisions on who and when to use what resources.
The more people who want to volunteer and be trained the more
resources we will have available to use when the need arises.
So in closing, I find that Roxanne has some very important needs
to be filled by the local Amateur Radio Community, and we are
willing to fill them. We need to be trained and willing to take
instructions from CAL FIRE’s Liaison and Roxanne. When the
time comes to help CAL FIRE, we will be better prepared to respond
effectively and to meet CAL FIRE needs. Hopefully, you now have
a better understanding of how and what CAL FIRE is and what it
73 Paul Rios KC6QLS
Red Flag Patrol — Part 2 Printed
in QST November, 2008 pdf
format as in
Paul Rios, KC6QLS
Continuing our story about the California
Fire VIP “Volunteers In Prevention” Patrol (Public
Service, QST, August 2008, pp 60-61), this past 4th of July holiday
was the first time the Patrol at the Monte Vista Dispatch Center
in San Diego County used its new Amateur Radio gear. The local
media did four news reports about the new Amateur Radio gear and
what the CAL FIRE VIP Patrol is and does. The first report was
aired on July 3 to get the word out about the Patrol and to let
everyone know that local volunteers will be out patrolling and
looking for fires. This was a very timely piece due to all of
the California fires burning to the north of San Diego County.
Rich, N6NKJ is the local Amateur Radio
contact for CAL FIRE and had nine groups of two patrolling the
San Diego’s Backcountry, and five patrols in Fallbrook and
into North County looking for anything that may start a fire or
looked out of place. We used a local Repeater system that is maintained
by RACES “Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service”.
Over all, the radios work really well. We used 2 meters and 70
centimeters, but still had some dead spots due to the mountainous
Among the Amateur Radio Operators on
patrol was a husband and wife team, Steve, KO4QT and Linda, KI6JUD.
This was Steve’s second patrol and Linda’s first.
While on patrol, Steve and Linda observed a man with a bag walking
into the woods in a remote area. They called this information
in to Net Control operator Paul, KC6QLS who reported to Roxanne
Provaznik, Fire Prevention Specialist II. Roxanne had Paul advise,
Steve and Linda to not engage, but to continue on patrol and double
back to check for smoke. The subject seen off of Buckman Springs
Road was later arrested and removed from the area as a transient
and fire threat to the area. This happened a week or so later.
Many of the volunteers were asked why they give their time. They
reported they feel a need to give back to the community. Some
of them know people who lost homes in the 2003 and 2007 firestorms
and they say that the reason they got into Amateur Radio in the
first place was to serve the local community and help out in time
Steve and Linda’s patrol totaled
over 150 miles. Multiply those miles by the number of volunteer
patrols on the 4th of July and you can imagine the amount of area
that was covered. We covered most all of East County, Alpine,
Crest, Campo, Cuyamaca, and Lakeside just to name a few. Most
of the areas had burned in the last fire storms.
The VIP Red Flag Patrol was a great
success due the enthusiasm and dedication of local Amateur Radio
Operators as well as the new radio equipment, which is capable
of operating many bands simultaneously. Both new and seasoned
VIP Red Flag Patrol Amateur Radio Operators enjoyed aiding CAL
Fire in fire prevention and look forward to the next call out
which will most likely be when the dry winds out of the east “Santa
Ana Winds” return.
Library branch Manager Rita Glick, with part of
the Amateur Radio display at the Serra Mesa-Kearny Branch of the
San Diego Public Library. The display has since been moved to
other area library branches.
Diego Library Branches Display Amateur Radio Printed in QST December,
Paul Rios, KC6QLS
With only four days’ notice, a
group in the San Diego area put together a display. “What
is Amateur Radio?” for the Serra Mesa-Kearny Branch Library.
The display was so successful that the library has asked us to
“take it on the road” to other library branches.
The initial display comprised several displays cases. Once you
passed the Library’s A-Frame informing that Amateur Radio
is on display, there was a triangular display case with a handheld
transceiver and the ARRL License Manuals. The next display in
the other triangular display case has a list of all of the local
clubs and their Web sites, along with what you will need in case
of an emergency and where you find a licensing class.
Further into the library, you came to
the first larger oak and glass display. In the center was an oscilloscope
and the HF, VHF and UHF band plans. Along the sides were fact
sheets about all the different modes and the way we use Amateur
Radio, from transmitter hunts, moonbounce, talking to the Space
Shuttle, ATV, DX contesting, amateur satellite, packet radio,
and how we prepare for and communicate in a disaster.
In the last big display we had three
sided hangers displaying movies and TV shows that have Amateur
Radio in them. To support the three hangers are more facts sheets
listing all the known movies and TV show, including Independence
Day, Phenomenon, Frequency, The Munsters, Twilight Zone and M*A*S*H*.
And then there is Jericho! To round out the display, we placed
in the center aTS-520S transceiver with the cover off. We labeled
some of the component and made fact sheets with pictures, electronic
symbols and what they do.
You can find links to more information
about movies and TV shows with a Ham Radio tie-in at www.arprsd.org/ARD.html.
- Paul Rios KC6QLS
Online Newsletter Stories from "Les Volta" |
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writings from QLS
US NAVY donates 100’ Tower on trailer to local Amateur Radio
Paul Rios KC6QLS
I received a call one day from a fellow member of The Amateur
Radio Club of El Cajon who asked me, “Do you think the club
could use a 100’ tower on a trailer?” After I picked
myself up off the floor, I said, “Did you say what I thought
you said?” He said, “YES!” After about four
weeks of paperwork the Vice President, Steve KO4QT, and I went
down to pick it up.
How are we going to use it?
We plan to use the Communications Tower Trailer for Emergency
service like the Fire Storms of 2003 and 2007 in San Diego. We
were called to help with communication in the back country when
all the phone lines were burnt down in the second fire. We also
help out with CAL Fire and we could now use the tower to set up
a local Repeater with a phone patch for both needs. From the educational
aspect, we can display the tower at community events like at the
Fire Station of El Cajon, who hosts an Open House where families
learn about Fire Safety. We also have an ARRL Round up planned,
and we will deploy it there. And of course, Field Day!
What is on the Trailer?
It started off as a Tri-EX Collimation Tower Model Number TR-9.
On board is the 100 Foot Tri-EX Tower. We have a weather station
for reading the wind speed and direction, and a closed circuit
TV. If that was not enough, an Oscar 10 Dual Axis Rotor is on
top of it all. Oh, did I mention a 6500K Water Cooled Generator?
Who we like to Thank
First we thank the US Navy for donating the Communications Tower
Trailer. This is a dream come true for any Amateur Radio Club,
and it will be used for the community and local communication
in times of need. Also, Tom N6TNC; if it was not for his help
and diligence, this dream would not be possible.
Statewide Golden Guardian Exercise
Paul Rios, KC6QLS
What is the Exercise
On November 13, 2008, Amateur Radio Operators in San Diego
County participated in the Statewide Golden Guardian Exercise.
The scenario for San Diego County was a 7.8 magnitude earthquake
along the San Andreas Fault at 10 AM. Some other smaller events
like road conditions, broken water mains, and power outages
came into play during the Exercise. Local news reported that
460,000 plus people were signed up for County and over five
million were signed up Statewide.
Why we need to
In the State of California, it is just a matter of time before
the next “big one” hits. With planning and running
an Exercise to see how everyone works together and shares
resources, and how the communication between different agencies
works, we are able to assess our emergency response efforts.
We also need to practice our communication between other Amateur
Radio groups within our local community. For many new Amateur
Radio Operators, this exercise was their first time working
emergency communications. With more practice even seasoned
veterans may learn a thing or two.
Joins in the Exercise
Involvement included UCSD’s testing building structures
and Balboa Park, who rang the bell at 10 AM to remind everyone
within ear shot to act as if the 7.8 magnitude earthquake
really hit. Everything from local schools that held earthquake
drills to Amateur Radio “back-up Supplemental Communications”
was covered. We all know cell phones are the first things
to go down or get over loaded and become useless in a matter
What We Did
We had Amateur Radio Operators stationed at over 18 local
hospitals, Padre Dam, San Diego EOC, MOC, and CAL FIRE’s
“Monte Vista PIO Center”. At 10 AM sharp the 7.8
magnitude earthquake hit and the radios came alive with activity.
The EOC and MOC were some of the first to be activated, and
then the local hospitals started to check in. Padre Dam checked
in and things started to really take off. I was posted at
CAL Fire to copy and relay the traffic that CAL Fire needed
to aid in their part of the drill.
Hospitals started to
report damages and fatalities and many people were injured.
Road conditions reports were also transmitted. A large water
main was reported broken and traffic a jam was in effect.
Hospitals then started to report power, phone systems and
internet outages. One hospital reported that the sixth floor
was flooding and starting to flow onto the fifth floor. Most
all hospitals reported at this time that the only communications
were by way of Amateur Radio. A few of the hospitals reported
that Winlink was up and running and they could communicate
with the EOC and MOC.
Some of the emergency
tents were deployed and filling up with walk-ins, and staff
was looking for room to place the over flow. Due to some damages
reported at one of the hospitals, it was determined that they
may need to evacuate part of the hospital. At 1200 hours most
of the hospitals started to report that they were closing
due to the amount of patients. By 1300 hours power and phones
were back on-line and more communication was flowing though
them. Things started to get back to normal and stations began
to close down. The Exercise ended at 1330 hours.
Exercise or Reality?
During the simulation, a real earthquake of 3.2 magnitude
hit San Juan Batista, CA, just north of Monterey, CA. at 1024
hours. We picked this information up from CAL FIRE’s
“Monte Vista PIO Center” and passed it to Padre
Dam. We even had a real fire just north of Ramona, CA, one
of the towns that was severely hit during the Fire Storm of
2003. CAL Fire later reported that the fire was under control
and would not be a threat. About four hours after the exercise,
the first of two 18 inch water mains really broke in the City
of San Diego. One main road was reported to be closed for
up to ten hours and affected the morning commute. The other
was in La Jolla and was reported to take 48 hours to fix.
Then, a major fire broke out in Montecito, CA. Santa Ana winds
of over 70 miles per hour helped fueled the fire. Over 180
homes are reported lost from this fire.
What we Learned
Steve Early, AD6VI San Diego Section Manager said, “From
the San Diego Section prospective, this was an opportunity
to learn about our good points and bad points. We have lots
of opportunities to improve, but at the same time we proved
that we are a valuable resource to many of the served agencies.
There was a point where the communications were deliberately
degraded and amateur radio was used to pass pertinent information
to and from all the hospitals and several other agencies as
well. I am looking forward to our opportunity to go to the
next exercise, and with a bit of perseverance, we will do
a better job and show that we are even a more desirable asset
than they thought this time.”
Ready for the
next Exercise or Real One
After the exercise and all the reports were in, we had a meeting
to review and assess our successes and opportunities to improve.
Like any other drill, we learned how prepared we really are.
Sometimes we may think we are ready, but we forget the smallest
detail, like that manual for the radio or someone to relieve
you for lunch. All of the “To Go Kits” are packed
back up, batteries are on chargers, and some are already rethinking
how to make their “To Go Kits” better for the
next exercise, or for when the “real one” hits.
the Top of Page
CW Keys That Really Work
By: Paul Rios, KC6QLS
I was talking with Carl
Gardenias, W6UD at the Riverside Convention back in 2005. We talked
about how to get youth involved in Amateur Radio. He showed me
a Wooden CW Key. He took the time to explain it in detail, how
to make them, and how to use them to attract the eyes of the younger
group. I could not wait to try this in San Diego. The Amateur
Radio Club of El Cajon was invited to attend a Fire Station Open
House, and we had the San Diego County Fair coming up too.
We got some wood crafters
together and started to cut the wood and sand any sharp edges.
We also visited a local hardware store and picked up a roll of
metal flashing tape with a sticky back. We had totes full of Wooden
CW Key parts. It would take hours to cut the tape and make the
Wooden CW Key Kits. We had a General meeting coming up so we asked
the members to assemble the kits during the meeting. Everyone
was ready to help; we had people cutting the tape and others putting
together the kits. Within 40 minutes all the kits were ready;
all 850 were rubber band and put back into the totes ready for
At the Open House, kids
were lining up waiting to make them. The Open House was only four
hours, and we almost ran out of the stock we had on hand. We saved
some for the Fair in the other totes at our storage unit. Over
all, it did spark an interest in the youth. We had them make the
Wooden CW Key, send their name in CW, had someone copy it, and
then they got on a real Amateur Radio and talked to one of our
members hiding just out of site. This got them really going about
Amateur Radio. Some kids talked for minutes and others did not
want to leave. It also helps if you have other youth with their
Amateur Radio License and wearing their call on a badge. Kids
like to see others their age doing something that they may like
to do. Kids will talk to kids and soon they will be asking their
folks about Amateur Radio. The very best thing about this event
is that the kids get to take the Wooden CW Key with them to keep.
One day years down the road, they will come across the Wooden
CW Key and remember all the fun they had making it. It may rekindle
that spark and get them going on becoming a Licensed Amateur Radio
How do you make the Wooden CW Key Kits? It is really easy. Get
some paint stirrers from the paint store, the 5 gallon kind work
best; a bag of rubber bands , “the nice and thick kind”;
a buzzer and a battery pack; a roll of metal flashing tape “with
a sticky back”; and some totes to put it all in. Each Wooden
CW Key will need a paint stirrer cut into two 4” and one
1” piece; Two ½” by the width of the tape parts
for the electrical path; and one or two rubber bands. Each longer
five gallon paint stirrer will make two Wooden CW Keys. If you
are going to make a lot of them, you may want to rip 2’x4’s
into ¼” strips, and then cut the 4” and 1”
parts. We did this when we made over a thousand units. See photos
for instructions on how to assemble the kits.
Left- CW Key
Kit ready to be built
Right -CW Key all done.
tape “With a sticky back.”
gallon paint stirrer stick, 1” and 4” marks.
CW Key ready
to be assembled.
Peel back the
tape and fold one end back ¼” for the alligator
Add the tape
make sure to line them up as show in photo.
KEY as shown
Hook up the
alligator clips one to each side and the other end to the
Pound some out
For the Buzzer, you will
need a battery pack, a buzzer, some wire and alligator clips,
and one full paint stirrer stick. Mount the buzzer and battery
pack to the paint stirrer stick, hook up the wires and make sure
you use alligator clips at the ends that will be hooked up the
Wooden CW Keys.
Now, for the fun. As you
sit at the table with a fully assembled Wooden CW Key pounding
out code, you will have questions: What are you doing? What is
that? You tell them that you are sending a message using CW. Show
them how it makes the sound and ask them if they would like to
make one and send their name in CW. After the kid jumps up and
down saying YES, oh my YES, you show them how to assemble the
Wooden CW Key. Then you have them write down their name on the
CW Code Paper. The CW Code Paper has the code all spelled out
for them and a place to write their name. Then you have them hook
it up to the buzzer stick and have them pound out some CW. It
is very important to know the kids will do their very best to
send it. Please be patient with them. Remember, you are there
to spark an interest in them. At times, we had four kids at a
time making the Wooden CW Keys and eight kids standing by to make
theirs. We even had some adults make some too. When the kids are
all done, you hand them the key and tell them it is theirs to
KEEP! Take note, their eyes will get really big and a smile will
soon follow. We had some kids start to tap out some CW and ask
why they can’t hear it. You show the kid’s mom and
dad how to make the buzzer stick and tell them where they can
buy the parts. Then, you hand them a club flyer and invite them
to your local club meeting.
This really works. You will
get some of them to attend your club meeting and some you will
see at other events in town; and the kids will run over and say,
“Can I make a Wooden CW Key?”
the Top of Page
CLUB DONATES ARRL LICENSE MANUALS TO AREA LIBRARIES "QST"Jan 2012
◊ The San Diego Amateur Radio Council (SANDARC) has donated 77 ARRL General Class license Manuals to be placed in each of the City and County Libraries. This is the fourth time that SANDARC has purchased these books to be donated 10 local area libraries. In recent years, every time the question pool has been updated for the Technician, General and Amateur Extra class, SANDARC has donated the latest study guide.
-Paul Rios, KC6QLS Click here for full page 99 PDF file
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