Mexican radio amateurs provided communication support in late May from a fire scene in a remote area to civil protection authorities in Monterrey, Mexico. Two-member teams of volunteers were flown in via helicopter since May 20, the first day of radio support, when the fire had already been burning for a couple of days. The fire in Pajonal — about 20 kilometers south of Monterrey — covered more than 200 acres in rough terrain. Temperatures topped 100 °F.
Fueled by hot and dry conditions, Mexico’s 2019 fire season has been intense, leading to poor air quality. By mid-May, more than 100 wildfires were active in 17 Mexican states.
Teams had been using Winlink but added the weak-signal software Vara HF, after José Alberto Nieto, EA5HVK, provided a Vara license on short notice. Tom Whiteside, N5TW, in Georgetown, Texas, supported the effort from across the border, aiming his 40- and 20-meter arrays in the direction of the fire in Nuevo Leon. Alfonso Tamez, XE2O, president of Mexico’s IARU member-society Federación Mexicana de Radioexperimentadores (FMRE), was been among the volunteers.
In addition to HF digital traffic, the volunteer teams took advantage of VHF repeaters. HF antennas consisted of a 40-meter dipole for 40 and a steerable portable dipole. A generator is providing electrical power.
Clarification:Vara HF was used as a higher speed connection protocol to Winlink gateways. Not as a standalone weak signal software.The indication given is that Winlink operations stopped for Vara HF PtP use, did not happen..
There was only ONE VHF repeater with spotty coverage.But great mention and Winlink worked well on 40 meters.