FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Fort Wayne Fire Department (FWFD) will soon have new, state-of-the-art radios to improve communication during a fire.

The bulk of the cost was picked up by a grant.

The current radios have been in service since 2011 and are no longer supported by the vendor.

“It’s like going from a Nokia flip phone to getting your first iPhone,” firefighter Kamron Bell said during a training session. “I didn’t know a radio could do that.”

The ability to talk from firefighter to firefighter inside a burning building is critical to staying safe.

“You want to make sure that you can hear and know what’s going to be expected of you and without the radio, you wouldn’t have that,” Bell added.

The radios can track a firefighter’s location. If the radio signal is weak, which can happen in large brick buildings or elevator shafts, the new models can use Wi-Fi or cell signals.

They also include a voice-command assistant called “Vicki,” which can be used like Siri or Alexa.

“Instead of the firefighters pulling the radio out of their coats and changing channels, they can actually use voice commands to accomplish the same,” said Fort Wayne Radio Shop Technical Director Mike Reichard.

The new radios are the first of their kind in Indiana and are certified by the National Fire Protection Association.

The total cost of the radio project was $1,480,800, but a check from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant covered $982,938.64. 

The radios should be fully in service by mid June.