Cowboys Ride With Satphones at Their Side

Government gives 7 ranchers phones to warn of wildfires
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2008 6:07 PM CDT
Paul Nettleton takes his Iridium Satellite phone from its protective case Tuesday, August 26, 2008 near his ranch in Silver City, Idaho.    (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield)
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(Newser) – Cowboys are men of spurs and solitude—and satellite phones, too. Federal and state agencies have equipped seven Idaho ranchers with satellite technology so they can make clear, quick calls if a wildfire breaks out, the AP reports. "Minutes count in that country," one cowboy said. "Right now, it's pretty quiet. But it'll come."

A 3-week blaze that burned up 3,000 square miles last year inspired the switch to satellite technology from cell phones, which are often blocked by terrain. The move cost about $10,000—chickenfeed next to the $34 million needed to restore Idaho's fire-charred land. "If I see smoke, I can get it reported very quickly,” one cowboy said. “I could have used it last year a lot, that's for sure." (Read more satellite phones stories.)