Wildfires burned over 4 million acres last year. 2021 has already topped this number by over a million acres. This year comes in at right over 5 million acres halfway through the season.

One of the most critical tools for crews attempting to contain raging wildfires is a fire radio. Radios allow firefighters to communicate and work in a safe manner. There are many kinds of and uses for fire radios.

This guide will break down the important role fire radios play in both the structure fire and wildland fire worlds. Come on an amazing journey as we find out the importance of this versatile communication tool.

What Is a Fire Radio?

A fire radio is a rugged piece of equipment given to firefighters in the field. A fire radio is tougher than your average radio and has multiple channels.

They are also programmable and can operate over vast differences. The following are a couple of common variations of fire radio.

BK Portable Fire Radio

Picture a suped-up walkie-talkie to get an idea of what a portable fire radio looks like. This two-way radio is one of the most advanced (and expensive) pieces of equipment your average wildland firefighter gets to operate.

With multiple different programmable channels, incredible range, durability, and performance, the modern BK portable fire radio is the choice piece of equipment for all field-going wildland firefighters.

Mobile Radios

A mobile fire radio is larger and has a longer range than its portable cousin. It is often found in fire vehicles or at a mobile command center. These radios are also programmable, but can reach repeaters better than portable radios.

This broadcasts their signal farther, making them an excellent choice for Incident Commanders, or other overhead who are more often than not tied to their vehicles.

Fixed Radio

A fire department, ranger station, or mobile command post will have a fixed radio. This is a much larger and more complicated machine capable of broadcasting over tremendous distances.

It is fixed in one location and is not easy to move. Many Fire Chiefs, Incident Commanders, or Fire Managers will have one of these in their office. They use it to communicate with personnel to know what’s going on.

Structure Fire Radios

Structure firefighters also have portable, mobile and fixed radios. Since they work in a more urban area, these radios are often linked in with the frequencies of other urban emergency responders.

There are some slight differences between a structure firefighter’s radio system and a wildland firefighter’s. That said, both are programmable to be compatible if they are working together on the same incident.

A fire department radio can often communicate with other types of resources, such as police or ambulances. This ensures a fluid response to many different types of incidents.

Uses of a Fire Radio in the Field

Fire radios revolutionized the way that firefighters communicate with one another in their dangerous work environment. Here are some uses for fire radios in the field.

Establish LCES

Radios make up the backbone of the LCES system. Without proper communication. No firefighters are ever permitted to engage a fire unless proper LCES is in place. This means without radios, firefighting is impossible.

Aid Aerial Operations

Without a radio, firefighters on the ground would have no way of communicating with adjacent aerial resources.

All aerial operations on a wildfire, from bucket drops to recon, are dependent on good radio communication.

Establish Chain of Command

The chain of command system requires radios to flow seamlessly. Fire radio scanners have multiple command and tactical channels. Without radios, the command structure would fall apart.

Help Firefighter Tactics

Containing a wildland fire, or putting out a structure fire are tactical challenges. Personnel need to be able to think, act and react tactically.

This means having access to tactical channels so that they can communicate with their immediate crewmen. Fire radios have tactical frequencies that can be programmed onto their channels.

This allows firefighters to communicate off the command channels to keep the flow of communication relevant.

Firefighters can operate their radio tactically with the use of a fire radio strap. Fire department radio straps are similar and work well for structure firefighter’s ease of tactical use.

Provide Accountability

Everything someone says on a fire radio is subject to recording. There are national fire radio standards in place that allow for the analysis of information post-incident.

This helps agency leaders identify what worked well and what didn’t, so they can provide accountability and improve operations. In the event of a tragedy fire, all radio transmissions will be analyzed to ensure accountability.

Help With Life-Threatening Situations

Many a firefighter has escaped an entrapment scenario via radio contact with an aerial resource or command leadership. Not only that, a radio can get a firefighter the help they need if they become injured or trapped in a bad spot.

Radios also allow firefighters to avoid getting in these situations in the first place. They give them the ability to communicate with lookouts who have a better perspective on the terrain they are working in.

Help With Resource Orders

At the end of every operational shift, the Incident Commander needs to put in a resource order for any additional resources they need for the next day. Without seamless radio communication on all levels, this would be impossible.

The I.C. needs to be able to communicate with crews to find out what additional things they need. They also need to be able to communicate with dispatch and place the order for additional resources.

Fire Radios Are Essential

Fire radios are one of the most essential tools firefighters have to help with their safety and operational efficiency. Without one, modern firefighting as we know it today would be impossible.

If you are looking for the very best in firefighter radio technology, Bendix King radios are the industry standard for fire radios.

This standard has been unmatched for decades. Contact us today if you need help facilitating your order. That way, your firefighters with boots on the ground will come home safe.