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Yakima County Fire District #5 lands Homeland Security grant

Yakima County Fire District #5 firefighters will soon have state-of-the art radios, which will allow them to communicate with each other from the Silver Dollar Cafe on State Route 241 to Signal Peak west of White Swan.

The firefighters, who often lose contact with each other in some of the more remote areas of the 700 square mile fire district, will soon be equipped with the latest in narrow band radio technology, thanks to a $541,800 assistance to firefighters grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Amounting to nearly a quarter of the district's $2 million yearly operating budget, the grant will be used to purchase the most advanced communication equipment available for the firefighters, said district officials.

According to Fire District Capt. Ken Shipman, in addition to 32 new portable radios, 230 pagers and 20 mobile radios, the grant will also allow the fire district to install three new repeater transmission stations to be strategically placed on mountain ridges surrounding the Yakima Valley floor.

"The upgrades will assist us in fighting the large number of grass fires we see each summer and also help to provide rescue services to the remote areas of Yakima County Fire District #5," said Brian Vogel, district fire chief.

He said firefighters will soon effectively be able to communicate in the isolated areas of the fire district and expanded initial response areas. The repeaters and the new radios will allow firemen to be in contact with each other from areas such as the closed areas of the Yakama Indian Nation, State Route 97 between Toppenish and Goldendale, and the isolated areas between Sunnyside and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on state routes 24 and 241.

Shipman said, in addition to clearing up the sometimes broken transmissions, the equipment, which is expected to be in place within the next year, will give the district a leg up on future advances in the communication field.

"The new repeaters will be outfitted for narrow band radio transmissions, as well as being digitally-ready for when those advances are available," Shipman added.

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