How to Fight a Forest Fire

How to Fight a Forest Fire

The United States Department of Agriculture has issued instructions that will be of interest to the volunteer firemen in the lumber and wooded sections of the country, on how to fight a fire that has started in forested country. In any event, the department pleads for cooperation from the public, and assistance in maintaining fire records, by reporting all fires that the public has fought, no matter how trivial.

Take immediate action on any unattended fire you find. If it has covered only a few square feet and is smoldering, put it out with water. If water is not at hand, use sand or clean dirt.

Pour water on the fire, and then with a shovel or stick stir the embers, dirt, and water together until it is well puddled; then pour on some more water. Drowning a fire with water is the surest way to kill it.

If it is spreading in grass and leaves, it may be quieted by beating it with gunny sacks or a wetted heavy coat.

If the fire is on sandy soil, such as occurs in Michigan or Nebraska, take a shovel and “sand” it—that is, take a shovelful of sand and throw it along the fire parallel to the burning edge. One can kill down a lot of fire very rapidly in this manner.

In the mountain region sand is not often available and shovels and axes must be used and fires stopped by cutting a trench around the outside of the burning area. Use the axes to cut any logs in two and to cut down trees which are in the way where the trench is to be made. Then take a shovel, or, if there is heavy sod and you have a mattock, use that to clear away all the needles, duff, and grass and make a trench about 12 or 14 inches wide in the clearing that has been cut.

This is what fire fighters call the “fire-control line.” It is necessary to make the trench only deep enough to get to mineral soil. The object is to remove the inflammable material ahead of the fire so that when it burns up to the trench it has nothing more to feed on and dies out.

If the fire is traveling slowly, try to put the first line in front of it and later trench the sides and rear.

If it is running rapidly, it is advisable to go some distance ahead to an old trail or road or open ridge to put in a line.

If it is a runaway, going up a steep side hill or fanned by a high wind, start what is known as a “flank” attack ; that is. begin building the trench on the sides from the rear and keep billowing around the fire until it is surrounded.

Throw the needles and litter and cuttings from the trench away from the fire. If you throw them toward the fire, that much more fuel is added to increase the heat when it burns up to the line.

As the fire comes up against the line it will try to jump in spots, and right here all the joy of battle may be experienced. It will be hot and smoky, but the satisfaction of holding every foot of trench will repay the effort.

If the fire wins at any point, it is necessary to repeat the same tactics until it has been subdued.

When the control line has been completed and the fire checked, do not think the job is over. The fire is only looking for a chance to esca|xand start the rampage all over again. Now is the time to strengthen any weak-looking spots in the line—kill down all fire near the line, in stumps, roots, and logs. Do this with water if it is easily available; if not, cover the burning spots with clean dirt.

Cut down all snags and dead trees that are afire and fell them into the fire. Otherwise when the wind comes up each snag will develop into a torch from which new fires will start outside the lines

Sec that the lines are constantly patrolled. The fire will sneak across the line in an old root and start anew, or the wind may pick up a spark and start a new fire unless there is constant vigilance.

When the fire has been put out near the edges, keep working around it toward the center, killing down every smoke and ember.

Before deciding all danger is past at the control line, feel the ground wherever there is the least possibility that fire may be left underground.

Very frequently there is fire in some old root that is not smoking and gives no evidence to the eye, but if left may later be fanned by the wind and cause a new fire to start.

Immediate action is imperative. Fires attacked quickly can nearly always lie put under control in a few minutes.

Quick action should be taken on the larger fires as well, and no matter what time of day they occur an attempt should be made to stop them.

If the job is not completed the first day, plan to start work on succeeding dais at daylight. At this time fires are quieter than at any other period, there is moisture in the air and much more effective work can be done then than during the heat of the day.

If there is more than one man on the fire and it is necessary to have tttore help, send only one as a messenger. Others can do effective work by staying on the job.

With your cquippage you should have an ax, a shovel, and a canvas water bucket. These are essential for camping and will prove a big asset in working on fires.

If the tools you have are insufficient, open up a Forest Service fire cache where tools are maintained for fire use only.

Whether you are successful or not in putting the fire out, please report the case to a forest officer if he can be reached easily. If not, report the incident to a local settler or official, and it will be appreciated if you will also leave your name and address. The Forest Service likes to know its friends and needs the data on all fires for its records.

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