Dispatch center goes down during critical moments of fire

Sheriff and Fire radio communications in the dark

POSTED: 10:53 AM PDT May 30, 2013    UPDATED: 11:06 AM PDT May 30, 2013 
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

NewsChannel 3 has learned, during the critical moments of two major fires in the Santa Ynez Valley, the county dispatch center had a serious technical problem.

Important communications between the dispatchers and both fire and sheriff personnel could not take place over the mobile radios.   Phone calls were made instead.

With several fires and an earthquake this week, some people are questioning whether the current system is reliable and if it could go down again.

Captain David Sadecki with Santa Barbara County Fire says, during the "Olive" fire off Highway 246 in Santa Ynez Tuesday, " the units were responding but they were not able to communicate, initially."

The dispatch center is operated at the Sheriff's Department.  Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover, said the break down was linked to, "blown fuses to one of the power sources, which caused the equipment malfunction."

Hoover said during the break down other forms of communication including phone calls  and mobile data computers were used to relay information.

"Communications are one of the most important things, it has to do with firefighter safety. Also we use it for assignments.  In this case the first  initial assignments were given verbally," said Sadecki.

Hoover said, because of competent "quick on their feet" dispatchers, we really didn't miss a beat.

The problem was fixed in about an hour.