National Interagency Fire Cache (NIFC "niff-see") is a large supply of firefighting resources based out of Boise, Idaho. These could be radios, hoses, nozzles, all sorts of things. It also includes frequencies available and set aside as federal-wide frequencies for Federal fire agencies. CALFIRE can utilize these frequencies with NIFC permission and typically when interfacing with USFS on a unified command incident. These frequencies will be used when all the local frequencies are overwhelmed from numerous fires, or very large fires.
Command Nets are utilized for administrative communciations on an incident. The high-level operational decision making takes place over command nets. During large incidents, these give a very good idea of how the fire is behaving, where it is at, and what action is taking place.
Commands 8-12 are part of the Federal Interoperabilty List. Commands 20 or higher are borrowed for temporary assignment from other Federal agencies. See below for further info.
Logistics UHF Frequencies can confuse the average fire scanner listener. For the average listener, you do not need to burden yourself understanding or trying to monitor them. You will get everything you need from the VHF frequencies.
These frequencies are used to link multiple repeaters together. For a large fire, there may need to be three or more portable command net repeaters placed around the fire. These temporary mountain top repeaters will be linked using these UHF frequencies. Often times they use yagi directional antennas which limit their interference (and naturally our listening ability if not within their range). These frequencies can also be used as remote bases. With helibases and command posts sometimes 20+ miles away from a remote fire, these UHF freqs will link a base radio with a remote base closer to the fire. It's like having a radio on a mountain top 20 miles away, with a long wire to camp to use as your microphone and speaker. These frequencies can also be used as camp radios for large camps (these command posts can become large cities on some fires).
NIFC UHF radio plan has 5 groups of channels, each group being for simplex, repeaters, links, aircraft links and camp net/securty. If you are monitoring near a large fire, you can try to simply search 406MHz to 420MHz in 12.5kHz steps. I will not post the full list due to its sensitive nature and potential integrity of a fire's communications network.
During the worst of times such as freak wide-geographic-area lightning storms, the local frequency resources are sapped up and the regular NIFC freqs get used up. There could be 100-200 fires sparked at once, each needing seperate communications all within range of each other. There is drastic need for more communications resources but none available. Enter the help from other Federal agencies. The NIFC Comm Duty Officer / Coordinator will go to various Fed Agencies such as FAA, Customs, DEA, Border Patrol, Veterans Affairs, you-name-it and ask to "borrow" some unused frequencies for temporary use on the fire.
Commands 8-12 are part of the Federal Interoperablity Pool and will stay the same across seasons. Commands 20 and up are assigned temporarily from the pool of Federal Agencies. They will typically remain the same throughout the season, but expire at the end of the season, so Cmd 26 in June 2008 will also be Cmd 26 if needed again in Sept, regardless of location in the western US. In 2009, Cmd 26 (if used) may be something different. This list will give you an idea of where to look and search.
These frequencies were heard and confirmed in Fire Season 2008 in both SoCal and NorCal, primarily during the Lightning Complexes. They should be good for the remainder of the 2008 season, and could be high possibilities in future seasons. Due to the sensitive nature, TX freqs will not be matched to their RX counterparts for any repeaters.
* channels were found in 2008 BTU Lightning and LNF Canyon Complex Comm Plan. Their alphatag names did not reflect their actual official NIFC designation, therefore their names are worthless here. They were used in an extensive linked Command Net up the Hwy 70 canyon and Concow area.