Helix Water District recently collaborated with Heartland Communication Facility Authority to improve communications for firefighters and first responders operating in East County by installing a new radio repeater on Helix Water’s Calavo tank, located near Mt. Helix.

“When public agencies work together to improve the lives of our citizens, everyone benefits. We are delighted with the outcome and are very proud to participate in making East County a safer place to live,” said Helix Board President Mark Gracyk.

The HFCA provides public safety communication services to 13 different fire departments and districts in San Diego’s East County. They use a universal radio system – known as a VHF radio – to communicate with different firefighters and first responders. Though reliable, our hills and mountains can interfere with VHF radio communications. HCFA wanted to improve communication in the El Cajon and Spring Valley areas, but they did not have a place to install a radio repeater between these two communities. Recognizing that Helix’s Calavo storage tank was in a strategic location to install a new radio repeater, the HFCA approached Helix to work out an agreement.

“Heartland Communications Facility Authority knows the needs of our local emergency communication infrastructure,” said Helix Water District Board Member Dan McMillian. “When HFCA approached Helix, our board saw this as an opportunity for our two agencies to work together for the benefit of the communities that we serve.”

Above: New onsite radio repeater unit

Above: New conduit leading to top of the Helix Calavo tank

Above: New sky blue radio antenna at top of the Helix Calavo tank

Construction started in March 2020 and completed in June 2020.  Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a 4-foot antenna at the top of the tank. As part of the project, San Diego Gas and Electric installed a new electric service and meter at the site so that the HFCA’s equipment can operate independently from Helix’s pumps and monitoring equipment.

“The HCFA/Helix partnership will enhance communication capability throughout El Cajon and Spring Valley. The HCFA and its member agencies are proud to partner with Helix Water District in improving fire protection and firefighter safety in the East County,” said Carlos Castillo, director of communications for HFCA. “Communications are an integral part of the firefighting effort in suppressing wildland fires, and firefighter safety relies on an effective communication infrastructure.”

The Heartland Communication Facility Authority provides emergency communication services for its member agencies, which include Alpine Fire, Bonita Fire, San Miguel Fire, City of El Cajon, City of La Mesa, City of Lemon Grove, Lakeside Fire, City of Santee, Barona Fire and Viejas Fire.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to 277,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.