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THE WESTERN FIREFIGHTERS' MANUAL, USDA - Forest Service, June 1919


COMMON ERRORS IN FIRE FIGHTING

Evidence in the field shows that the following gross errors are still of frequent occurrence.
  1. Failure to start for a fire immediately. Man thinks more of comfort than his job - let him choose.
  2. Failure to attack at 4 o'clock A.M.. Violates first law of fire fighting. He would drop a match in a slashing and go in to dinner before he tried to put it out.
  3. Failure to have suitable equipment or foremen. He wasn't prepared.
  4. Failure to keep posted in regard to all sides of a fire. Backwork instead of headwork.
  5. Construction of a trail in front of a fire without burning clean from extreme edge of trail. Pins faith to a foot of dirt where experienced men would not put trust to a county road.
  6. Construction of a fire line in advance of a fire with no attempt to backfire. A costly monument to misjudgment or inefficiency.
  7. Escape of fire after patrol is abandoned. Classed with those "who didn't know it was loaded."
  8. Failure to throw dangerous snags. He would build a 3-ft fence to keep birds out of his garden.
  9. In moss laden timber the construction of line in advance of fire without burning out moss before heat of day. It would be cheaper and just as effective to blaze a line of trees and cross his fingers.

SUMMARY The most important rules in fire fighting may be classified and summarized as follows.

I. Preparation.
  1. Be prepared. Have tools and supplies ready, and arrangements made for securing foremen, crews, and transportation.
II. Initial Action.
  1. Get to every fire without delay, day or night.
  2. Hit it hard on start, that is, play safe on size of first crew.
III. Organization.
  1. Have one Fire Chief with full authority and responsibility.
  2. On large fires establish several small camps.
  3. Split big crews into small units under competent foremen, and assign definite sectors to each.
  4. Let foreman assign definite strip to each man.
  5. Avoid shifts of over ten or twelve hours.
  6. Provide good board and furnish ample lunches to men on line at proper intervals.
IV. Plan of Attack.
  1. On arrival go around fire. Then keep posted as to progress and conditions on all sides.
  2. Determine most critical points, not only under present conditions, but in view of what changes may be expected during day and night.
  3. Have a definite reason for every act.
V. Time of Attack.
  1. Always do as such work as possible before heat of day.
  2. After first day start work at 4 A.M.
  3. Take advantage of all lulls in fire due to changes in wind, moisture conditions, etc.
VI. Point of Attack.
  1. Aim to cut off head of fire as soon as possible. With small or weak fires, attack head.
  2. With large fires, start on flanks and work toward head.
  3. Always guard against fire flanking rear end of line.
VII. Method of Attack.
  1. Avoid methods which delay issue Indefinitely.
  2. In 95 cases out of 100 stick close to fire and use Direct, Two Foot, or Parallel Method.
  3. Use Direct Method when fire is smouldering and backfiring difficult. Use Parallel Method when fire is hot and backfiring easy.
  4. Keep fires off areas or out of material which will create a large volume of heat.
  5. Always backfire lines built in advance of fire front. Don't delay issue. Never depend on a trail to hold a fire.
  6. Fall all snags which threaten to throw fire across lines.
  7. Combat crown fires with night and early morning work. In mossy timber use Direct Method on surface fires and burn off any tree moss remaining inside lines before heat of day.
VIII. Patrol.
  1. Hold all constructed lines even if it takes entire crew.
  2. Base intensity of patrol on (a) condition of main fire; (b) probable rate and direction of spread if It line.
  3. On any fire where there has been intense volume of heat, maintain watch for spot fires up to a half-mile or more beyond lines.
  4. Never abandon a fire, during fire season, until all ground fires within 30 to 40 yards and all snags within 75 to 200 yards of line are EXTINCT.
  5. Keep at least one man on patrol for 4 or 5 days after last spot fire is discovered across lines.
IX. Fire Fighting Economy.
  1. Catch fires when they are small and send in enough men to insure cleaning up job in a few hours. (The cost of a few surplus men for one day on small fires is negligible in comparison to the excessive cost of large fires which are bound to result if one figures too fine at start).
  2. Use methods which will force a quick issue and result in a clean burn to edge of all-lines by time construction work around fire is completed. Aim to use adequate crew for short period.
  3. Lay off majority of crew just as soon as lines are completed.
  4. Maintain patrol as stated above.
 

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