How you can request a portable cell tower at no charge, with FirstNet
Published: 7/13/2021
Author: Ryan Fields-Spack, EMT-P, Captain (Ret.)

During California’s Camp Fire in 2018, several crews lost critical communication infrastructure when wildfires consumed land mobile radio repeater sites, cell towers and even the fiber optic cables running to them. Without a network, their communication lifeline was cut off, and they couldn’t communicate effectively with incident command. 

As a former fire captain, I know crews trust their command staff to come through for them, and to have all options available to recover and restore communications as quickly as possible. And now, as a part of the FirstNet Response Operations Group, I’m in a unique position to help triage network outages and work with agencies to determine the appropriate resolution required to restore service. 

Only FirstNet has dedicated, portable assets to provide firefighters and first responders with unthrottled access to connectivity when and where they need it. FirstNet customers can request and access over 100 land-based and airborne portable cell sites, all at no additional charge. Designed for rapid network restoration, these deployable assets link to FirstNet via satellite and don’t rely on commercial power availability.

FirstNet Response Operations and our portable assets were there for firefighters battling the 2018 Camp Fires. California Fire Incident Command requested FirstNet deployables for both Paradise, Calif., as well as additional deployables to assist the incident command stationed at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, Calif.

Having the [deployable] capability helped not only the boots on the ground,” said Chief Kim Zagaris, “but also helped the command team that had to manage the incident and push data back and forth, and supply information to the public.” 

Fast forward to 2021. In June, FirstNet added micro Satellite Cell on Light Trucks, or micro SatCOLTs, and stationed them throughout the West in preparation for what is predicted to be another significant wildfire season. These micro SatCOLTs can be easily deployed by a single technician within a matter of minutes once onsite. So far in 2021, public safety has requested FirstNet ROG support more than 200 times for planned and emergency events covering everything from COVID-19 vaccination centers to winter storms. 

When you’re in the field, FirstNet helps you protect the communities you serve. Remember, this is your network – built with and for public safety, to keep you connected when you need it most. For more information, visit


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