Two firefighters show off a FirstNet enabled cell phone being tested on the Vader Fire in Idaho. (DOI/Neal Herbert)
BY CHRIS BUZO
In today’s modern landscape, technology, and accessibility to that technology, is as important to the wildland firefighter on the ground as the chainsaw and Pulaski. As a project leader with the Wildland Fire Information and Technology Program, I take pride in what our office is doing to provide improved technology to firefighters on the ground. Below is a quick glimpse at the projects and initiatives that our team is working on:
FireNet is our approved environment for connecting and sharing information on wildland fire incidents. It is one of the tools that Incident Management Teams use to share critical information with stakeholders, landowners and the community at large. Wildland firefighters and managers use it to share information across the interagency community and with the public. I, like many of you, have heard the rumors circling that FireNet is going away. It is not! Since launching this capability, which is currently hosted on the Google environment, over 6,300 people have signed up to use it. Looking forward to 2020, my team is actively working to establish a new, more secure environment and will begin to migrate users, data, and operations to this “next generation” solution for FireNet. While this will bring a new look and feel to the platform, the capability of our interagency team to share information and collaborate during an active wildfire event will continue to be fully operational.
The FirstNet Authority was established, in part, to provide network and cellular access to wildland firefighters and their support teams, along with other emergency responders, in areas where service is normally unavailable or extremely limited. This year, several Incident Management Teams tested FirstNet enabled cell phones and tablets on active fires, employing cellular connectivity provided by the FirstNet provider, AT&T. Information Technology Support teams followed up with training and gathered feedback about how the system and devices performed in some of the most remote areas across the country. This summer the team tested deploying FirstNet capabilities to active wildfires as a viable connectivity tool and will continue more deployments into the 2020 season.
I look forward to being able to share future updates on our wildland fire information and technology program, including applications and systems that support Fuels Management, Suppression, and Preparedness programs.
Chris Buzo is the Supervisory Information Technology Project Manager with the Office of Wildland Fire's Enterprise Applications Group. Chris has been supporting Wildland Fire Information Technology since 2013.