Mexican Amateur Radio Volunteers Provide Communication in Wildfire Response

Mexican radio amateurs provided communication support in late May from a fire scene in a remote area to civil protection authorities in Monterrey, Mexico. Two-member teams of volunteers were flown in via helicopter since May 20, the first day of radio support, when the fire had already been burning for a couple of days. The fire in Pajonal -- about 20 kilometers south of Monterrey -- covered more than 200 acres in rough terrain. Temperatures topped 100 °F.

Fueled by hot and dry conditions, Mexico's 2019 fire season has been intense, leading to poor air quality. By mid-May, more than 100 wildfires were active in 17 Mexican states.

Teams had been using Winlink but added the 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 from across the border, aiming his 40- and 20-meter arrays in the direction of the fire in Nuevo Leon. Alfonso Tamez, XE2O, president of Mexico's IARU member-society Federación Mexicana de Radioexperimentadores (FMRE), was among the volunteers.

In addition to HF digital traffic, the volunteer teams took advantage of VHF repeaters. HF antennas consisted of a 40-meter dipole for 40 and a steerable portable dipole. A generator is providing electrical power.

Republished with permission of the ARRL.

Vara HF was used as a higher speed connection protocol to Winlink gateways. Not as a standalone weak signal software.
The indication given is that Winlink operations stopped for Vara HF PtP use, did not happen.

There was only ONE VHF repeater with spotty coverage.

Copy of script From Newsline report


PAUL/ANCHOR: Our top story this week finds us in Mexico where amateur radio support on HF and VHF and across the border became part of the massive support network as firefighters and others fought to contain wildfires. Kent Peterson KC0DGY picks up this story.

KENT: Mexico has suffered a brutal fire season as hot, dry weather led to more than 100 wildfires in 17 states by the middle of last month. In one hard-hit region of Mexico, cooperation among hams on both sides of the U.S. border provided vital communication support in a remote area south of Monterrey, Mexico. By May 20, a small team of Mexican radio operators was being delivered by helicopter into the fire zone daily until storms rolled in.

The volunteers included Alfonso Tamez XE2O (X-E-Two-Oh), president of the FMRE, the IARU-member society in Mexico. He wrote on the WinLink for EmComm Google Group that the use of WinLink was particularly valuable because emails could be sent and received directly at the fire scene. Communication tools also included high-speed capable VARA HF, a weak-signal software. Team member Mike Burton XE2/N6KZB noted that Tom Whiteside, N5TW, just across the border in Texas, provided [quote] "an instrumental link for the mission" [endquote] by turning his 40 metre and 20 metre antenna arrays in the direction of the operators for their use.

The hams' involvement ended on May 31st. Alfonso noted in a meeting afterward that WinLink training will continue and there is a renewed commitment to increase the number of portable stations for deployment in future emergencies.

For Amateur Radio Newsline I'm Kent Peterson KC0DGY.

Video report:

Starts with Fire commentary.

XE2ORE in back - XE2O in front
Winlink Linkomatic