“On the count of three!”

The crowd applauded as Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio and CEO of the Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross, Gary Strong, cut a bright red ribbon in front of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

The ceremony in San Andreas on the morning of Oct. 4 was held to celebrate the completion of a new first responder radio communications tower east of Arnold.

The project was carried out through a collaboration between the American Red Cross, Calaveras County Water District, CCSO, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Volunteer Unit, Calaveras Information Technology Department, Columbia Communications and the Friends of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.

Members of all of the organizations involved attended, as well as District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills and representatives from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The project grew from the ashes of the 2015 Butte Fire. During the blaze, several communication sites failed, and it became apparent that the county’s communications infrastructure was in need of an upgrade.

Thanks to $108,000 in funding from the American Red Cross, a new tower was recently completed that covers weak spots in the area and allows scalable expansion of the communications system in the future. The Sheriff’s Office now has a total of five communications tower sites in the county. The other sites are at Blue Mountain, Sierra Vista, Fowler Peak and Ross Drive.

“We started it almost two years ago with funds that were left from the Butte Fire that were designated for infrastructure,” American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Debbie Calcote said. “It’s been a long process, but it’s finally up and going and working.”

Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dennis Huberty spoke on the significance of the project.

“Communications is probably the most important thing to a deputy sheriff, dispatcher or correctional officer doing their duties,” he said. “Now that we have that Arnold corridor established and working, our people are actually able to communicate.”

As he spoke, Huberty stood next to a metal pole, which held a parking sign.

“By the way, this isn’t the tower,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience. “It’s in the Arnold area, but we’re not going to take you up a dirt road and get you lost. That’s why we’re doing it in a nice, clean environment closer to home.”

“When a big disaster like (the Butte Fire) happens … that’s when the community really does come together and people come out of the woodwork to give money and help out,” Strong said. “We still had money left, and this idea of helping out on this tower is something that came to us that we’re really excited about because it’s an investment that’s going to have benefits way out into the future.”

DiBasilio thanked all of those involved in the project.

“This can not only work for the Sheriff’s Office; it’s going to end up working for fire; it’s going to work for everybody that has any type of radio service needs in our community. This is an awesome project for the county,” he said.



Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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