Vandals took aim at an unlikely target last week in Grand County, Colorado. Firefighters’ battling the 14,000+ acre Williams Fork wildfire suddenly noticed their radios stopped working.
The size of the fire is so large simplex communication wasn’t feasible. The U.S. Forest Service deployed a portable repeater to allow firefighters in the field to communicate with the command post.
“We noticed that the command channel was not working. We set them up to be able to talk to one another, from firefighter to firefighter, division to division, as well as back to the incident command post,” says Paul Roose, Incident Commander of the Williams Fork Fire.
Paul dispatched a crew to check on the portable repeater and that’s when they found it in pieces.
“The ropes were cut on the base of the antenna, and the antenna was damaged after it was on the ground,” says Roose.
He says the decision could have put firefighters in danger.
“It’s a big deal for firefighter safety, as well as public safety. The radios are our communication device to let folks know if the fire is doing anything,” he says.
Crews were able to fix the antenna with some spare parts, but Roose says there could be problems if it happens again.
“We did have replacement parts for it, but they are rather difficult to get and they take days to get in,” says Roose. “If it keeps happening, it’s going to cause a lot of issues for us.”
The U.S. Forest Service is handling the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to email ARPPublicAffairs@FS.FED.US or call 970-887-4100.
Photos and original reporting from KDVR-TV.