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Alberta - Carseland grass fire

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  • Alberta - Carseland grass fire

    Anyone else here participate on that grass fire last Thursday?


    We were still putting out hotspots as late as Saturday afternoon.
    SRFD905 - Serving since 1998


  • #2
    Thought there was a big one somewhere when I came out of Medic class and Lethbridge was getting the smoke from it. But I had no idea that the source was Carseland.

    Just one question though, how did the communication go between everyone? Just asking as that was one of the big problems noted when the Granum grass fire was debriefed. By the reports I saw on the news it looked like it went fairly smooth but then you don't get the whole story there.

    Another stand up job though guys, way to go!!!
    Dave Burn
    (EMT-P Student)
    Effort only fully releases it's reward on someone who refuses to quit!


    • #3
      Most of the resources were based from the County of Wheatland and had common radio frequencies. Mutual aid partners from Calgary, Rockyview, and Siksika were in the dark so to speak until the ARES unit was in place and portables were distributed.

      I think that one of the 'learnings' is to push operations to the provincial fire freq and leave the dispatch frequency for I/C, EOC and other essential traffic. We have simplex channels on the rx portion of our dispatch frequencies, but the mobiles were reaching the dispatch center. A portable radio was not able to reliably reach across the entire fire scene. There were a few communication breakdown's due to volume of traffic. The dispatchers from WADEMSA had their hands full, but like everyone else managed the extreme.

      Otherwise, I think everyone adapted well. The command structure generally worked, and in the end I think the only substantial loss was of a stack of 50 - 100 round hay bales.

      There are many small learnings to take away.

      We for example will be looking at ensuring we have dust masks and goggles available for everyone. Lots of crap in everyone's eyes and lungs that could have been reduced.

      The fire burned right up to the back alley's of the houses in Caresland. Some pretty intense moments in those alleys. I can't imagine what we'd be talking about today if even one of those properties had started.
      SRFD905 - Serving since 1998



      • #4
        Originally posted by rualfire
        I think that one of the 'learnings' is to push operations to the provincial fire freq and leave the dispatch frequency for I/C, EOC and other essential traffic.
        Good idea! If only we could convince others to do this. We have "Firetac" in our VHF radios, and have the UHF equivalent as well (used as our regular tac channels). I know Airdrie and some FREMS-dispatched stations use Firetac as their regular tac channel as well. The problem with rigs closer to Calgary than you is, we're on so many different bands. Of the departments that are dispatched by Calgary, 7 are on UHF 400mhz conventional, 1 is on 400mhz trunked, 3 are on VHF conventional, and 1 (not including Calgary) is on the Calgary 800mhz trunk. Very few of them seem to have radios for the other bands that their neighbors use. My VFD (Redwood Meadows Emergency Services) has chosen to equip ourselves with radios from each band and get letters from each department to let us use their frequencies (if on a call with them).

        Originally posted by rualfire
        We have simplex channels on the rx portion of our dispatch frequencies, but the mobiles were reaching the dispatch center. (...) A portable radio was not able to reliably reach across the entire fire scene.
        Good points again. Departments around here used to do this, calling it "talkaround", and a few still do. We stopped it when we found that our scene comms were reaching our dispatch center, despite us being 20 or more miles away! As for scene comms, we have a second repeater channel that doesn't go through dispatch, and is a completely separate set of frequencies. It's used as our "tactical repeater" - if we need long-distance non-dispatch-related comms, we go to that channel; otherwise, fireground/scene comms go to our abovementioned tac channels.

        As for the fire, I was off duty that day from Dispatch, but was ready to man up with RMES. In fact Dispatch confirmed with us that we had bush buggies available and in service - I think the implication was that we and Cochrane were covering all points west!

        Anyway, well done, guys. Good job.


        • #5
          One thing that we pulled out of the 'Granum" incident was - Communications.

          Allot of the confusion came when fireground was told to move to fire tac. Well some departments had fire-tac and some only had provincial fire.........oh wait a second, they are both the same. So as guys were arguing over what channel to use and how to get communication to guys, they could have used radio the entire time. I believe every department in Alberta has to have 'PROVINCIAL FIRE' programmed into their radios. Simple line of sight communications, I believe at one time it was going to be put on a repeater and be a disaster channel - not sure if this is in the works still or not.

          So its always interesting to hear about departments left in the dark. Granum had something like 22 fire departments involved. Communications was huge issue - you guys had it right with ARES to help out!

          Where main communications done over county of wheatland repeaters or was Provincial fire used?
          -I have learned people will forget what you said,
          -People will forget what you did,
          -But people will never forget how you made them feel!


          • #6
            Originally posted by Dave404
            Well some departments had fire-tac and some only had provincial fire.........oh wait a second, they are both the same.
            That's a point I forgot to bring up. Forestry also has this same frequency but calls it "MUTUAL 7" or something along those lines. In Airdrie (if there are any AES folks here, correct me if I'm wrong), it's "Tac 6".

            I don't know if there's a legal requirement to have it, but most departments certainly DO, with one name or another. Personally, I think it should be called one thing province-wide - I like the name "Firetac" which rolls off the tongue a bit better than "Province Wide Mutual Aid" or "Provincial Fire" (because a lot of EMS crews call Provincial Ambulance just 'Provincial'), etc.

            As for making them repeaters/disaster channels, I don't know about that. I know that the two UHF frequencies are designed as a repeater pair, and are used as such in very rare occasions. As I said, we have them as two separate simplex tac channels in our radios.

            For those who are unfamiliar with the frequencies we're talking about, under the names we're giving, here they are:

            VHF "Firetac", Provincial Fire, etc.: 156.855 simplex
            UHF "Firetac": 412.55 / 417.55 simplex or repeater pair


            • #7

              Hadn't heard of the Provincial Fire Mutual Aid Channel reffered to as firetac before.

              Having a disticnt name would make sense. When setting up LZ for STARS, we get instruction to monitor 'provincial' which inevitably leads to the question of Provincial Ambulance or Fire?

              From the beggining of the incident until ARES arrived on scene the Wheatland 'Fire2' repeated was used. It quickly became clogged with operational and command traffic. Once ARES arrived, they deployed ARES portables to all units programmed to their mobile repeated system. I think the definately helped the non-wheatland departments get in the loop.

              The IC moved from a station behind the fireline (a truck) to the Caresland firehall as things were escalating beyond a 'big' grassfire to an interface fire. A single mobile radio there didn't improve communications significantly. The time it took to get ARES was definately worth it. Had this turned into a conflaguration, those communications would have been essential. As it was, things were starting to wind down, and they were releasing mutual aid units shortly after ARES arrived and set up.

              To get to your question about firetac Dave. We never did move operations to provincial fire. I suspect those mutual aid departments with the capabilites probably tried to make contact on firetac, but received no answer as it wise likely not being monitored.

              If you guys want (you may already have them) , I can provide Wheatland fire frequencies.... [email protected] if your interested.
              SRFD905 - Serving since 1998



              • #8
                When dealing with an LZ for STARS it is provincial AMBULANCE channel they are refering to.
                Dave Burn
                (EMT-P Student)
                Effort only fully releases it's reward on someone who refuses to quit!


                • #9
                  CTV also did a story on the grass fire in carseland, it's posted at:


                  there's two videos on the right hand side of the page as well as the story for reading


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