All these ungainly garden tools had to be packed in on horseback. In the early 1900s two USFS Rangers, Edward Pulaski and Malcolm McLeod started thinking of ways to combine, and improve the tools of the day.
Today, we employ a wide array of equipment: Helicopters drop loads of water on spot fires with precision, single engine tankers paint lines of fire retardant to slow the progress of a fire and protect structures, and heavy air tankers drop tons of retardant to stop a fire in its tracks. Specially designed engines and tenders with off-road capability claw their way across the landscape, and massive bulldozers cut fire-brakes through the forests. But, when you hear that five hundred or a thousand firefighters have been deployed to fight a fire, know that almost to a person, they’re doing it the old fashioned way, with basic hand tools. Digging miles of fire line, hacking through roots and scraping away vegetation to create of line of raw earth between what has burnt and what has not. This backbreaking work is the basic tactic in every wildland fire attack.
line: a Pounder, Big Foot, Scalper, and a Chingadera. The tools arrived with
specially made 40-inch S-shaped Hickory and 48-inch straight Ash handles. All
J.R. Fire Tool heads and handles are interchangeable, so you can customize the
tool to fit your needs. The first thing we noted was the quality of the heavy,
heat-treated, oxidized steel blades, sharpened on three sides, and the precision
of the welds and overall construction of the tools.
“These are top quality, American made tools. I’ve never seen a better-made wildland tool,” said Elk Creek Firefighter Ryan Tinkey.
Elk Creek Wildland Coordinator Jacob Ware said the Pounder was his favorite. He said he liked the way it felt in his hands, and that the weight and size of the blade were ideal for cutting line. He was also impressed by how durable the steel blade was. “ You can pound rocks with it all day, and this tool will still hold an edge.”
of dirt with every stroke. I found that I used the point of the sharpened right
side of the blade to break up vegetation, much like I’d use a Pulaski, and I
saved the sharpened left side of the blade for hacking through roots. Everyone
was drawn to the 40-inch S-curve Hickory handles, but I’m a bit taller than
average, so I stuck with the 48-inch strait Ash handle.
Michael Davis is a Firefighter and Public Information Officer with the Elk Creek Fire Protection District in Conifer, Colorado.