Prescribed Fire

Featuring
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What happens when you give 20 guys drip torches and tell them to burn as much as they can.

It’s early may in region 3 (Arizona and New Mexico for all you non-forest service folks) – this is the time of year you usually see big wildfires around here.   It’s hot and dry.  The season has been unusually slow though, which is strange since region 3 had an extremely dry winter.  I was expecting to get the call to go somewhere – like the Coronado in southern Arizona (where temp’s are usually above 90 and erratic winds usually make for some big fires)  or the Gila.

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So when we found out we were going to go do a prescribed burn up near Hatch I was more than a little surprised.  I was shocked when I heard we were only going to be there for 1 shift. Usually when a hotshot crew does a prescribed burn we are there from start to finish not just for a little piece of it.  I was told we would be there for black-line operations and they would bring a heli-torch in to light the rest.  Black-lining is a process by which a crew will light fire around the edge of a prescribed burn, making a buffer of burned fuels around the perimeter so they can light the interior safely – a heli-torch is a device that attaches to a helicopter and drops a material not much unlike napalm to the ground to light a fire.

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So we arrive and it’s a typical island mountain with desert all around it.  It was starting to make sense- once we black-lined to radio towers at the top there was a long ways to go before the fire could get to anything.   The burn boss (aka the guy in charge) seemed pretty gun-ho about putting a lot of fire on the ground and told us basically to burn as much of the mountain as we could in one day.

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The photos show you what happens when you tell a hotshot crew to “get as much of this mountain burned as you can” -  we had 15 people with drip torches – as you can see- it burned really well.

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We covered a lot of ground that day- which is normal for a hotshot crew- we hike everywhere we go – our lives depend on the gear we have, the most important piece of that gear is our backpacks- which carry our fire shelters, water, food, and all the equipment we use to do the job (usually they weigh in at 40-50lbs as a base weight and then with a drip torch or bladder bag that weight can often be doubled).

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I consistently hear things from the guys on my crew like “this is the best pack I’ve ever worn”  or “this is the only pack that doesn’t hurt my back after a 16 hour shift.”  All I can say guys is keep up the good work- I know 20 guys that have their backs to thank you for.

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5 Comments

  1. ben rock
    Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    hotshot crews are over-rated! region 1 rules! Engine 231 YEAH!!!!!

  2. Pat Gladics
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    engine slug.

  3. Jeremy
    Posted June 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Now now, there’s a place in fire for all of us. If only I could squeeze one of those packs into my belly bag…

  4. the auther
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Jeremy… pace…. your ip is 12.153.176.0 I wonder- is that to a gov. facility… see you out there buddy.

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