Prepare for the wildfire year, not just wildfire season, with FirstNet
Published: 6/02/2021
Author: Chief Kim Zagaris, WFCA Wildfire Policy and Technology Advisor

With wildfire incidents starting earlier and ending later every year, there is seemingly no such thing as wildfire season any longer. 

In California, federal representatives have called for a year-round federal firefighting workforce. That’s something once unheard of that now must be considered, if not implemented. California’s governor has increased the state’s wildfire budget by an additional $1 billion dollars, which includes hiring an additional 1,400 firefighters. And the extra funds are already being used with California's fire season having burned approximately 700% more land during the same time period last year. 

Source:, Jan 1 - May 5, 2021

The longer wildfire season and its potential impact affect all the west, not just the state of California. In a recent National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook, the National Inter-Agency Fire Center (NIFC) reported that “warmer and drier than normal conditions continued across the West Coast and into the Southwest in April, with warm and dry conditions also observed in New England. Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah had their driest April – March period in 126 years, with California and Colorado having their third and fourth driest April – March period, respectively.” 

In some cases, with no off-season and with our hectic schedules responding to everyday incidents, it’s getting more difficult to find time to re-evaluate our preparedness plans and how we can all better equip fire agencies at the local, state, federal, and tribal levels. 

All of us need to consider FirstNet as our collective communications platform. It’s public safety’s network. That means it’s our network. More than 16,000 public safety agencies and organizations across the country have already signed on with more signing on every day. That includes large municipal agencies like San Antonio Fire, and smaller mountain ones like the Gypsum Fire Department in Colorado. 

With FirstNet, you and your agencies will be ready and prepared for all-hazard incidents. You can have a single point of contact for your MDT, phone, push-to-talk, and mapping needs, and you can:

*  Access city and backcountry maps 
*  Enable firefighting vehicles to become rolling mobile hotspots 
*  Access near real-time weather and traffic information 
*  Check emergency conditions and back-up support
*  G
et enhanced situational awareness with innovative apps and devices 
*  Exchange video and data on the fire ground near real-time

And did you know that FirstNet customers can request one of more than 80 deployable assets such as a Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) to re-establish terrestrial coverage during an event? These assets are available to first responder agencies on FirstNet at no additional charge. 

Communication is our lifeline. And during large-scale disasters, it can break down. That’s the reality that wildland firefighters face regularly. We’ve seen it time and time again. 

I urge you, my fellow Chiefs, to contact your FirstNet representative to learn more about implementing FirstNet department-wide, plus look at some of the newest FirstNet Technology. Individual first responders can also sign-up directly if they’re responsible for their own service. Visit for more information.


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