Friday, December 22, 2017

Hams Support Evacuation Shelters in California's "Thomas Fire"

Amateur radio operators staffed evacuation shelters in two California counties in mid-December as the wildfire known as the "Thomas Fire" continued its path of destruction. At press time, what was described as the largest-ever California wildfire had burned nearly a quarter-million acres and destroyed more than 700 homes. 

Ham radio operators are providing communications support for Red Cross
evacuation shelters, such as this one, for people who have been forced out
of their homes by wildfires in Southern California. (American Red Cross photo)

The ARRL Letter reported that hams were providing communication support for Red Cross shelters in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, with at least some of the volunteers also being evacuees. In Santa Barbara County, ham support included an amateur radio digital MESH network that provided live-streamed video from several locations. Maintaining power was a challenge, as commercial power was out in many places and the heavy smoke made solar panels unreliable for recharging batteries. At press time, the fire was only partially contained and hams were continuing to provide communication support.