Ham Radio Helps After Thomas Fire

In the aftermath of the Thomas Fire -- now the largest fire on record in California, at 281,620 acres as of December 24, 2017--ham radio (amateur radio) operators were a key source of information on what was really happening on the ground. Information from those ham radio operators was obtained from a network of radio repeaters, high speed mesh nodes, radio receivers, SDR, and other equipment on mountain tops, located across Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, and Los Angeles County.

In fact, the high speed ham radio network was the source of the very first video of the Thomas Fire as it surged from Santa Paula towards Ventura, even before people in Ventura had been warned of its approach. Those ham radio resources were also used to live stream information on the fires 24/7 throughout the fires.

The Sulphur Mountain repeater was mentioned in the Washington Post, talking about how the power, phone, and Internet was out in Ojai, ham radio was the only way to figure out what was going on.

Ham radio equipment (ADS-B receivers used to monitor air traffic) was also used to help provide information to the public on *exactly* what areas in Carpinteria, Toro Canyon, Santa Barbara, and elsewhere were under threat--and where firefighters were doing air drops or bombarding specific houses with retardant.

Unfortunately, that amateur radio network sustained some damage in the Thomas Fire -- one site was literally "cooked" from the bottom of an equipment cabinet by the fire (destroying the batteries and some electroics):
(bottom of the cabinet which cooked the equipment at the Reeves Road site in Ojai).

Heat also damaged some of the mesh equipment:
(mesh antenna, smoked and cooked in Ojai).

(The countryside around the Sulphur Mountain repeater site)

We also discovered other sites faced serious limitations after utility power was cut and solar panels were obscured by vast clouds of smoke. This GoFundMe will go towards enhancing the existing ham radio repeater network, to make it more reliable in emergencies. That includes making this more reliable, including purchasing additional deep cycle batteries, adding solar panels, and backup generators, where appropriate. It will also go towards adding high quality video cameras to those repeater sites, like the one on Sulphur Mountain which captured the Thomas Fire, so the public and government officials have another source of information on what is going on during these kind of wildfires. (we'd also be happy to take donations of the right equipment, in lieu of funding). Enhancements also would include high speed 2G/5G/3G mesh networking nodes, network switches and routers, Raspberry Pi/ADS-B/remote scanning equipment/and other equipment.

Any funds received from this campaign will be distributed to the network of ham radio operators who operate the information amateur radio repeater networks across the counties, SOLELY to replace destroyed equipment, and enhance the network for future emergencies--those include WD6EBY Paul Strauss and the Pleasant Valley Amateur Radio Club (PVARC), the Ojai Valley Amateur Radio Club, along with others involved in the effort. We will all be extremely grateful for any help in enhancing our resources to benefit the public in future emergencies!

We know there are many people who have lost homes and livelihoods due to this fire; PLEASE donate to them first, NOT US (!!), but if you do have the resources and would like to help us improve our communications services to the region  in an emergency, please chip in. THANK YOU!

This fundraising campaign is being managed by AI6YR (Benjamin Kuo), located in Newbury Park, whose twitter is at http://www.twitter.com/ai6yrham . He also maintained the YouTube live stream of the fire traffic , as well as key information on the fires. He will not receive any direct benefit from this campaign (but will make sure those dollars it goes to the right folks and equipment!). The funding is going to the Pleasant Valley Amateur Radio Club (Paul Strauss, WD6EBY).

Donations (0)

  • Michael Modaberpour 
    • $100 
    • 11 mos
    • $25 
    • 21 mos
  • Kevin Potter 
    • $91 
    • 21 mos
  • Robert Shank 
    • $100 
    • 22 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 22 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Benjamin Kuo 
Newbury Park, CA
Paul Strauss 
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