MISSOULA, Mont. — With wild fires raging across the state, the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula has requested help from Verizon Wireless to increase call capacity on its wireless network in the southern Bitterroot Valley. In response, Verizon Wireless flew in equipment from as far away as Los Angeles to construct a temporary cell site that was put into service last weekend.
When the request was made for increased wireless capacity, call volumes in the Missoula and Bitterroot Valley areas were up to 50 percent higher than normal. In two and a half days, Verizon Wireless crews were able to install the temporary cell site, a task that would normally take 2 - 3 weeks. The temporary site provides coverage from Lockout Pass to Darby, an area that includes the U.S. Forest Service fire camp at Sula Peak.
"Our network engineers continue to monitor call volumes and system performance to make additional enhancements as necessary," said Marni Walden, president for Verizon Wireless in the Mountain region. "In fact, today we have installed additional radios to the temporary Darby site to further accommodate the increased call volumes."
However, even with these emergency upgrades to the western Montana wireless network, call volumes are still very high and Verizon Wireless is asking its customers to limit all non-emergency calls until the fires are contained.
In addition to enhancing its call capacity, Verizon Wireless provided space in its Ravenna cell site to house 911 and other emergency communication equipment when the county sheriff's communication site burned.
The Verizon Wireless Significant Event Response Team (SERT) and local Verizon Wireless employees are working with both state and federal government agencies, in addition to the Red Cross to provide more than 200 wireless phones to firefighters and other emergency management personnel.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S. with more than 25 million wireless voice and data customers and nearly 4 million paging customers. The new coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp --now Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) -- and Vodafone AirTouch Plc (LSE:VOD; NYSE:VOD). The new company includes the assets of Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless, PrimeCo Personal Communications and AirTouch Paging. The new company has a footprint covering nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 96 of the top 100 U.S. markets. Verizon Wireless, headquartered in New York City and Bedminster, NJ, is 30,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company in its Media Center on the Web at: http://www.verizonwireless.com/mediacenter.