Folkston, GA – Yesterday I drove down to Folkston to monitor the West Mims Fire that’s been burning in the Okefenokee NWR (and just outside of it) since 6 April 2017. Using the Uniden BCD436HP handheld scanner and the Uniden HP2 as a mobile scanner, I was able to hear some of the activity on the south and east sides of the fire.
The West Mims Fire has to date burned over 148,000 acres in and around the Okefenokee Swamp and it continues to threaten communities in south Georgia and north Florida. The map below will give you an idea of just how large it is. The fire is currently only 16% contained; full containment isn’t expected until November because of the weather conditions. 804 personnel are assigned to the fire from multiple local, state, and federal agencies. While I was in the area, I saw vehicles from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forestry Service, Georgia Forestry Commission, and the Georgia Dept. of Corrections Fire Services. Aviation assets are some of the easiest things to hear on this fire; eight fixed wing aircraft and ten helicopters are currently assigned.
The majority of the activity that I heard was from the south and east sides of the fire. The fire is split up into Divisions for command and control purposes and the divisions that I could hear were referred to as A and Z. Command and coordination for these Divisions were being handled on the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) District 12 Repeater system; other traffic was heard on a GFC tactical frequency. Helicopters and a fixed wing spotter/control aircraft were up while I was there and they were using 3 Federal Frequencies and an Aviation band frequency to control drops and make spotting reports.
- 159.465 (DCS 054) – Georgia Forestry District 12 Repeater System
- 159.390 – Georgia Forestry Tac
- 169.200 – Air-to-Ground Request
- 166.675 – Air-to-Ground
- 169.150 – Air-to-Ground
- 120.850 (AM) – Helicopter Air-to-Air
- 167.125 (PL 156.7) – Okefenokee NWR Repeater
As I mentioned above, the air resources are some of the easiest traffic to hear. A lot of the tactical fire fighting traffic is on simplex frequencies, so unless you’re close you’re not going to hear much. The aircraft, especially the spotter/control aircraft, are easier to hear because they’re overhead the fire. Here’s the way they seemed to be working yesterday: AIR ATTACK was the spotter/control aircraft; they were passing along reports of what they saw and suggesting and processing requests for water drops on 169.200. Water Drops were coordinated with the helicopters assigned to them on 120.850. Coordination with ground contacts to do the drops was done on 166.675 and 169.150.
I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to run down to the Folkston area to monitor the fire and search for new frequencies, but as I do I’ll post updates. As before; if you have any additions or corrections, please let me know.
I’d ask you to please consider donating supplies to the crews working the West Mims Fire; it’s a good way to give back to those keeping us safe. Many of the firefighters and crews are away from home fighting the fire here in Georgia and Florida, so it would be of great help to them. Many communities in southeast Georgia and northeast Florida are holding drives to collect supplies, keep an ear on your local news for information on where you can donate. Items that you can donate are:
- Bottled water
- Gatorade/powdered drink mixes
- Coolers and Ice
- Bug Spray
- Paper Towels/Wipes
There are multiple ways to keep up with the West Mims fire in addition to news reports. Inciweb, RSS, Twitter, and Facebook are all being used to keep the public informed by government agencies and news services: