FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Amateur radios and their operators beat out modern technology last Sunday, possibly helping save lives in the Tinder Fire.

This form of communication is more than a century old.

Bill and Mary Lou Hagan are members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). The two and their emergency district coordinator, Joe Hobart, were at the Coconino County Emergency Operations Center (EOS) Sunday, when the communication troubles began because of poor cell service at the fire line.

“The cell phones started to become difficult and all of a sudden, the information started coming through here,” Bill Hagan said.

Hobart isn’t too fond of the name more commonly used for amateur radio—ham radio.

“I think it started out as a not-very-complimentary term, you’ve heard of ham actors?” Hobart said.

This is just a pastime for the Hagans, who have been married for 54 years.

“It’s a hobby to see how far away you can talk to people,” Bill Hagan said.

Sunday, these ARES volunteers were anything but fun and games.

On the other end was a team member on the fire line needing to get evacuation information out fast.

“There was no time to waste,” Mary Lou Hagan said.

For two hours, these hams relayed life-saving information, getting out a code red to those in the Blue Ridge community in the path of the flames.

“That’s what you’re here for. You’re here to help your neighbors and they’re our neighbors and the firemen you have to support them,” Mary Lou Hagan said.

“I think the commercial people made a bit of fun of us until they found out that we were sometimes kind of useful,” Hobart said.

Anyone needing the latest information on the Tinder Fire or evacuations is asked to call the EOC at 928-679-8393.

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