BEND, OR -- Bend Fire has secured a nearly $1.5 million federal grant to help upgrade its communication system. Battalion Chief Dave Howe says the money will help all 12 Central Oregon fire departments. "The radio system that we are in the final stages of upgrading is a regional radio system." He tells KBND News the FCC requires all agencies to convert to digital radios, but the local transition would not have been possible without financial help. "We've been successful in funding some of this with other grant proposals and awards. The final piece of this radio project that needs to be completed is actually buying the radios."
Howe says it's important to make sure all local agencies upgrade together. "Especially in the summertime, you never know who you're going to work with when you go on a wildland fire deployment - to Warm Springs or down to La Pine. You may have Cloverdale with you, you may have Sisters, you may have Prineville; and you need to be able to talk to everybody basically to be effective and to be safe." He adds, "If we don't change over from our analog radios to our digital radios, we won't be able to communicate well."
Bend Fire had asked for $1.99 million, but Howe says the $1.43 million award is enough to purchase more than 350 portable units, 155 mobile radios for trucks, 89 pagers for volunteer firefighters and 23 base radios. "I would say that we should see radios arriving here in early spring, and to be programmed and installed by late spring/early summer," says Howe. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant is run by FEMA.
Deschutes County law enforcement agencies transitioned to digital radios over the summer.