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In Print in the ARRL QST

CAL Fire Media Center
CAL Fire Media Center
CAL Fire Media Center
Rich, N6NKJ and Roxanne

What is VIP Red Flag Patrol? Printed in QST August, 2008 pdf format
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 Patrol?

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 in.

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 does.

73 Paul Rios KC6QLS


VIP Red Flag Patrol — Part 2 Printed in QST November, 2008 pdf format as in QST
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 terrain.

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 of need.

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.
San Diego Library Branches Display Amateur Radio Printed in QST December, 2008 pdf
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 - Paul Rios KC6QLS

ARRL Online Newsletter Stories from "Les Volta"
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Other writings from QLS
Got Mobile Tower?
US NAVY donates 100’ Tower on trailer to local Amateur Radio Club
Paul Rios KC6QLS

The Call
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.

California 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 do this
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.

San Diego’s 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 of time.

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.


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Wooden 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 the kids.

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 Operator.

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.
Metal flashing tape “With a sticky back.”
Longer five 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 clips.
Add the tape make sure to line them up as show in photo.
Assemble CW KEY as shown
Hook up the alligator clips one to each side and the other end to the Buzzer.
Pound some out some CW!

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?”



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◊ 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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