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Fire Dept. Interference Receives $25,000 Fine

Case involves interference with fire department emergency communications

The FCC has proposed a $25,000 fine against Drew Buckley of Bay Shore, N.Y., for operating an illegal two-way radio and interfering with local fire personnel communications.

“The fact that Mr. Buckley intentionally and maliciously interfered with frequencies used by Melville [N.Y.] to communicate during fire emergencies demonstrates a deliberate disregard for public safety and the commission’s authority and rules, warranting a substantial penalty above our normal sanction for unlicensed operations that interfere with licensed communications,” said Enforcement Bureau official David Dombrowski in the decision.

The agency found Buckley operated an unlicensed transmitter and interfered with the communication system of the Melville Fire District of New York. The fire district is the licensee of Private Land Mobile Station WIG703; they complained about interference last fall, sparking an agency investigation.

Melville is licensed to operate a repeater system on the frequency pair 474.2875 MHz (repeater input frequency) and 471.2875 MHz (repeater output frequency). The repeater frequency pair is allocated to public safety stations, and private citizens are not eligible to hold an authorization for a public safety station that operates on a frequency in the Public Safety Pool.

The fire department asserted that an unidentified male made unauthorized transmissions — chanting and heavy breathing — on its repeater system, according to the commission. When this happened during a fire emergency, personnel had to switch to another frequency in order to communicate with each other, as well as with dispatchers, according to the account.

Melville also reported that all of the unauthorized transmissions had the same unique identifying code, indicating that the unauthorized transmissions were coming from a radio programmed with a code assigned to Fire Department Rescue Officers in the Suffolk County Fire Service.

FCC Enforcement Bureau agents traced the illegal transmissions to Buckley’s residence. The Suffolk County Police Department interviewed Buckley and he showed them portable radios and vehicle mobile radios. The latter could transmit on the repeater input frequency and activate the Melville repeater. The police arrested Buckley and the case is pending in Suffolk County District Court.

The FCC tacked on an extra $8,000 to the base fines for transmitting without a license and malicious interference to communications for a total of $25,000. Buckley has 30 days to appeal or pay.