Volunteer Mexican radio amateurs provide communication in response to forest fires

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05/30/2019

Mexican radio amateurs provided communication support from a fire scene in a remote area to civil protection authorities in Monterrey, Mexico. Teams of volunteers made up of two members have been transported by helicopter since May 20, the first day of radio support, when the fire had already been burning for a few days. The Pajonal fire – about 20 kilometers south of Monterrey – covered more than 200 acres of rugged terrain. Temperatures have risen above 100 ° F.

Fueled by hot and dry conditions, the 2019 fire season in Mexico was intense, resulting in poor air quality. As of mid-May, more than 100 wildfires were active in 17 Mexican states.

The teams used Winlink but added weak signal software Vara HF, after José Alberto Nieto, EA5HVK, provided a Vara license on short notice. Tom Whiteside, N5TW, in Georgetown, Texas, supported the effort across the border. It has networks of 40 and 20 meters pointed in the direction of the fire in Nuevo Leon. Alfonso Tamez, XE2O, President of the IARU Member Society of Mexico, Federación Mexicana de Radioexperimentadores (FMRE), is one of the volunteers.

In addition to the digital HF traffic, the teams of volunteers took advantage of the VHF repeaters. HF antennas consist of a 40 meter dipole for 40 meters and a portable orientable dipole. A generator provides electricity.

On May 23, the team had to be removed from the fire zone due to severe thunderstorms. Amateur radio support for fire teams was to continue at least until May 30, when the need for continued support would be assessed.

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