The Santa Anas are hot, dry winds that have their beginnings in Colorado. As they move west, picking up speed in the mountain passes, they lose their moisture. By the time they arrive here in southern California, they are very strong and very dry.
Just before 7 a.m. my RACES group was called out to provide communications for the Escondido Police and Fire departments. I had been monitoring our RACES repeaters and heard the call out for Strike Teams for animal rescue. The fire was big and out of control, being fanned by gusts of 50 miles-per-hour or more. I knew it would be a long and nasty one. Animal Rescue was busy transporting domestic animals and pets from the fire path. The county EOC, located in the San Diego Sheriff's Department, was acting as a communications center, coordinating the efforts of all RACES personnel, Animal Rescue, ARES/Red Cross, and ARES/Salvation Army.
Shortly after 9 a.m. I received word via Amateur Radio that the fire was moving rapidly into the city and that structures were in danger. I informed Police and Fire, which immediately dispatched personnel to the area and began fire fighting and evacuation efforts. Through the quick response to an Amateur Radio operator's call, property as well as perhaps lives were saved. All danger to the Escondido area passed by mid afternoon.
On day two another fire advanced on the city of Poway. We had RACES observers stationed along the fire front feeding reports on its movement. These were fed to the county to help the fire fighting teams coordinate their manpower.
On day four I was called to see if I could find personnel to relieve the tired Amateur Radio volunteers providing communications for the Salvation Army at the Wild Animal Park and the Army's headquarters in Escondido. I took off my RACES badge, put on my ARES badge and went to work finding licensed Amateurs to fill the need. Through this whole ordeal, I was very gratified to find so many unselfish people willing to provide support.
By day 5 the fire had been contained and fire units were beginning to be sent home. At this time all RACES, ARES and Animal Rescue volunteers were ordered to stand down. For the many Amateur Radio people involved in the effort, it had been a long battle.
Once again we proved the invaluable service that we as a group of trained volunteers can provide in times of emergency. Comments made to us from county fire and police officers proved this out. There were times that we were the only reliable means of getting information to these groups as all their communications were overloaded. At one point, we were the ONLY way available to the local fire department to find out where the fire lines were.
I hope you'll get involved in your local RACES and ARES programs. It's not enough to respond to an emergency. Without the proper training provided by ARES and RACES, you can be of little help. A trained pool of volunteer communicators can be invaluable in the saving of lives and property. There is no way that the public sector can provide the manpower and equipment to handle these emergencies. Your assistance is needed.
---By Tim Low, N6ZUC@KJ6VC.#SOCA.CA.USA.NA
To our Eastern and some other readers we must point out that, in the West, for any emergency imaginable, there is always a government agency charged by law to respond to that emergency and never a volunteer group answerable to no one. We appreciate that the latter reflects the spirit of volunteerism of over 200 years in some states, but that condition is dwindling. We cannot self-dispatch ourselves. Volunteers are answerable in every case to a designated authority. It is for those authorities and their coordinated volunteers that these BULLETINS are addressed.
Thank you one and all. ---Stan Harter, California State Office of Emergency Services, KH6GBX@WA6NWE.#NOCAL.CA.USA.NA