Wildfires burning through Texas since late March are some of the worst the state has ever seen, with 17 major fires burning about 573,000 acres. The rural fireground called for remote communications to support firefighting efforts, so about 11 fire departments — including those from Fort Worth and Dallas —deployed to the area their communication systems-on-wheels (SOWs) armed with equipment from Motorola Solutions, according to the company.

SOWs are self-contained mobile communications sites that provide radio system infrastructures to areas lacking radio coverage. The mobile sites are armed with the scalable, IP-based MOTOBRIDGE system to tie together radio frequency bands for interoperable communications on the fireground, said Chris Howard, the company’s area sales manager for Texas. Howard said many departments had been investing SOWs, as well as a cache of radios to be stored in the trailer on wheels, in preparation for large-scale events.

“They were ready for this type of event,” he said.

MOTOBRIDGE lets wildland firefighters from various jurisdictions using different frequency bands respond to mutual-aid calls and communicate at the fires, added Trevlyn Pitner, account manager for north and west Texas. It patches all the disparate agencies together so they can communicate in the field, Pitner said.

In addition, SOWs have a cache of radios with the proper bands and channels programmed, which then are distributed to responders as they arrive on scene. Having systems ready ahead of time lets incident commanders focus on tactical fireground operations, not on whether there are enough radios to distribute, Pitner said.

“The key is being able to go out and fight the fire and not have to worry about deployment and linking radios,” he said. “This time they were prepared with [SOWs] so they could concentrate on the fire.”