Q: Why is there no Forest Service Region 7? Was there ever one?
A: In 1966 the Forest Service did a massive reorganization. At that time R-7
(Eastern Region) which was headquartered in Pennsylvania was consolidated
administratively with the current Region 9 and abolished. During the same
reorganization the Northeastern and Southeastern Area State and Private Forestry
offices were created to address the coordination role of the forest service with
the respective state agencies in the two geographic areas. The S&PF work had
previously been done by the regional offices and this was to improve the
coordination flow. If you want to check go get Michael Fromes book "The Forest
Service". Used it as a text book several decades ago in college. HUTCH
another discourse on the topic by Retired Forester posted on
9/18/04 and here's a
Q: What was the first piece of PPE issued to a wildland firefighter, and when (year)?
1st PPE had to be the hard hat. When? Good question! I know my first seasonal job in 63 we were given hard hats but had to supply our own chalk boots in Northern Idaho. By the way still have
it. (Old Ranger)
And the first ones were aluminum, right? Today they have to be plastic because of concerns for
lightning strike, and the rolls of toilet paper. Not too heavy, but sure fills things up.
Found on the National
Agricultural Library Pictures starting in 1952 where hardhats were showing up in pictures of western firefighters in Idaho.
Bullard designed and manufactured the first aluminum hard hat in 1938 but they
were used primarily in mines, on construction projects like the SF Golden Gate
Bridge and by roustabouts working on oil fields. (Mellie) More on
HARDHAT HISTORY, materials, suspension, and heat vent details.
R5 stopped using the metal hard hats in the 70's. (JWatt)
I'll go with the thought that the hard
hat was the first PPE... unless it was gloves. (BLM Bob)
El Cariso Hot Shots and the other R-5 crews were required to be wearing plastic hard hats during the summer of 1973. We used
orange-colored metal ones the year before that. I remember thinking at the time that the bright yellow plastic ones were quite
stylish compared to what we were used to. (Harv Dabling)
The first piece of PPE was in fact the human brain. Hopefully it was issued at the year of birth for each wildland firefighter. <tongue in cheek> If a brain full of wildland fire knowledge was not delivered at birth, it takes some education, experience, and discussions to rival the importance of the first PPE issued to wildland firefighters. Without trying to understand
this #1 PPE, there is no need for other personal protective equipment or measures to be used or sought. Without an understanding of Human Factors (basic and advanced psychology and sociology), there is no such thing as personal protective equipment.
Good people make bad mistakes sometimes ..... (Lobotomy)
Q: How did hotshot crews start and when? How many and which
were the original hotshot crews?
A: First came the IR Crews (Inter Regional Suppression Crews). There is a
great old article relating to the origin of the IR/IHC crews form "Fire
Management" Summer 1974 edition.
Marty Alexander's '74 article:
Interregional Fire Suppression Crews.
I think there were 16 or 17 crews:
St. Joe IRS (best crew songs)
Slate Creek IRS
Pike Mountain IRS
Big Horn IRS
El Cariso Hotshots
Del Rosa Hot Shots??
Many crews that later achieved IRS status started earlier than
1967 but this was the first year the crews became national assets. There are
obviously others and a couple of these might be wrong. Add and delete as
Los Prietos (R5), 1948 is another one; AKA, Los Padres Hot
Q: Who was the first woman hotshot, where and when?
Sue Husari might have been the first Shot at least in Calif. (an early poster)
Kimberly Brandel, currently a District Ranger on the Payette NF (Idaho), was on
the Mt. Hood Hotshots (Zigzag RD, Mt. Hood NF, Oregon) in 1976. I don't believe
it was her first season on the crew. In 1976, Sue Husari (now
Regional Fire Director for Western Region of NPS) and another woman were
on the Lassen Hotshots. And there was a woman on Los Prietos Hotshots (Los
Padres NF) that same year. (Merlin in 1976, 6/1/08)
I worked on the Lassen Hot Shots in 1976 and 1977. I imagine that Glo's season
started earlier in 1976, so she retains the
national title for now. Although I may have been on a crew in R5 before Deanne
Shulman, I want you all to know that she was and will always remain the better
hot shot, female or otherwise. She truly is an amazing person, firefighter and
pioneer in so many ways. We all owe her a great debt. --- I think that there
were women on crews in Region 6 before1976 and I have sent out a note to a
reliable source. When I find out you will all be the first to know. (Sue Husari,
I was wondering how to find out if I was the first women ever to be on a hot
shot crew. I was on the Morman Lake (AZ ) Hotshot crew in 1976. (The year 3 crew
members were killed.) "Glo", aka Gloria Eighmey (5/29/08)
The first one I saw was, I think, Deanne Schulman on the Los Prietos crew in '77. I believe she'd been on the crew for a season or two then, but I'm going senile and could well be wrong.
Deanne later went on to become the first woman jumper. (BLM Bob)
I just spoke to Deanne Shulman. 1977 was her first year on LP shots. (Scott
There were two ladies on
the Redding shots in 1981, Sue Husari and Beth Lund In 1982 Beth became foreman on the
Mendocino HS, I
believe she was the first female supervisor on a shot crew... but then that was a long time ago and Im starting to get oldtimers I think.
Celia Howe was a crewperson on the Hobart Hotshots in 1981.
I spoke with Roddy Baumman, former superintendent of Zig Zag IHC, who confirmed
he hired both Kimberly Brandel and Deb Schnell in 1977. He also remembers that
Joe King, superintendent at that time of Baker River IHC, had hired a woman
named "Da-ne" (not sure of the spelling) "a couple years before that."
Interesting note: Roddy remembers seeing the first woman ever on the fireline in
1970 (Nancy Graybill, now Region 6 Regional Forester) who belonged to a Type 2
crew. "It was quite the shocker for us," he said. (Karen)
Q: Who was the first female Hotshot Supe?
1989 Margaret Doherty of the Lolo Shots became the first female Hotshot Crew
Superintendent in the nation.
Soon after, in
1991, Gina Papke became superintendent of the Zigzag Hotshots.
Q: How and when did smokejumping begin?
A: Smokejumping as a method of fighting fire began in 1940. The first
smokejumpers parachuted to a fire on the
Nez Perce NF on July 12th, 1940. There were also some jumps made in Region 6
that summer out of Winthrop, Wa.
and a few white conscientious objector paratroopers continued the momentum during WWII. Here's a good
article describing the
history of the black WW II paratroopers. Instead of being sent to fight in
Europe, they were stationed in the west and defended the west coast from
Japanese incendiary balloons. They also put out forest fires. PFC Malvin L. Brown,
a medic and member of Headquarters Company, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was
the first SJ to die on a fire jump on August 6, 1945 on a fire on the Siskiyou
National Forest near Roseberg, Oregon. For more info on this little-known
triplenickle.com/ (Info from Big Smooth and -=RADAR=-)
Q: Who was the first woman smokejumper?
Deanne Shulman (on the Los Prietos HS crew in '77) later went on to become the first woman jumper. (BLM
On Becoming a Smokejumper by Deanne Shulman (Smokejumper Magazine)
Q: Who was the first woman pilot
for the Forest Service?
Mary Barr and
Memorial to Mary Barr
Q: Is there already a first woman retiree in fire? That is, have women been in fire long enough to have retired?
I heard there was a woman who retired on the Sierra NF, I think in the last few years, who might be the first one to retire in fire. Could someone there check around? Don't know her name.
That would be Louise Larson, who retired last summer from the Sierra. She was the Forest Fuels Officer when she retired. (-Liz
Heard that Jennifer deJung on the Toyabee NF in R4 was one of the the first
women to retire in wildland fire in the nation. Does anyone know anyone who
preceded her? (Mellie)
As to your question about the first fire woman retiree, that would be Louise Larson, who retired last summer
(1999) from the Sierra. She was the Forest Fuels Officer when she retired. There are several of us within 3-5 years. If you want a good perspective on the history of women in wildland fire, check out Michael Thoele's book,
"Fireline: Summer Battles of the
West". Chapter 9 is devoted to the Sisterhood.
(Actually, Ab has heard thru the grapevine that a Native American woman
firefighter retired one or more years before Jennifer ('97 or '98). She worked on the Klamath
NF and continued (as of 2002) working in fire as an AD. Anyone knows her name,
please let us know.)
. . . I worked with a Native American woman firefighter
named Mary Brooks on the Mad River District of the Six Rivers NF back in 1977
and '78. She is the Mother of John Chester who still works there and the
grandmother of Jaycee Chester who works there as well. It seems to me that Mary
retired in fire in the early 1990's. (Diana)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In relation to the question regarding the Native American woman firefighter from the Klamath NF, I believe you might be looking for
Florence Conrad. She is a Karuk Indian woman who worked on the Ukonom District. She spent her whole career there as a firefighter/prevention tech. She retired in
2000 as an ADFMO. (WHSP_Mike)
Florence retired as the ADFMO from the Ukonom Ranger District. The Ukonom is now consolidated
with the Orleans District of the Six Rivers. She was always there for us and got us out the door to fires. She has been active as a base camp
manager since she has retired. (Kim W)
Rhonda Bierman retired in March 2001 with firefighter retirement after 26 years in the USFS with 23 years initial attack in the fire service of the USFS.
She says "I loved it!" (MB)
Here's an earlier record of a woman firefighter:
Found this on the web. Thought it worth sharing for what it's worth. (Tom Caves)
"Mrs. Durham, wife of one of the pioneer rangers on what was then known as the
California National Forest, and her friend, Ms. Kloppenburg, were the first
women firefighters in 1915. The California National Forest is now known as the
Mendocino National Forest."
Q: Who was the first woman IC? Of a Type 2 Interagency Incident Management team? A Type
I IIMT? First woman Area Commander?
Mary Jo Harvey was the first woman Type 2 IC in Region 6 decades ago.
Linda Szczepanik was the first woman Region 5 Incident Commander of an IIMT, specifically
NorCal Team I, a Type 2 team.
In her words: Ab, I just read the question of the first female IC. Well
I am that person, and I thought I could clear up a couple things on the
question. I became qualified as a ICT2 in 1991, but did not get a team until
2000. In 2005 Dave Sinclear my Deputy took the team, and I became Deputy for
Allan Johnson. It was the first year that Allan had his team. In Oct of 2005 I
retired due to mandatory retirement because of age. Hope this helps, thank
you. Linda Szczepanik
A: Jeanne Pincha-Tulley was the
first female IC of a Type I IIMT, specifically
[There may have been another woman that got credentialed but never
fielded a team... reports are cloudy on that. If you know, chime in. (She worked
with IC Carvello in the Great Basin.)]
A: Edy Williams-Rhodes was the first female Area
Commander. When she became AC, it was not prerequisite that you be a Type 1 IC,
as it is now. In those days you had to be experienced at the T1 team level in 2
or more positions, but not necessarily be a T1 IC. I heard she was excellent in
Logistics. In fact people who have worked with her have said she was stellar in
Logistics on a Type 1 team and excellent as an Area Commander. Here's a
great piece on Edy:
Q: Who was or is the youngest IC to lead a Type 1 team?
A: Rowdy Muir may be. He was a qualified Type I IC at the age of 41; he got his first team
Dale Jarrell said that he became a Type 1 IC at the age of 44,
so he doesn't qualify as the youngest, but he thinks he is one of the first ICs
(vs Fire Bosses). (Terrie, Dale's daughter)
Q: Who was the first IC (fire boss) to lead a Type 1 team?
A: Don't know yet... but here's one reply:
One of the first, if not the first, was Ralph (Rowdy) James. He was the FCO on
the Klamath NF and the first North Zone Coordinator. (4200)
Q: When did ICS begin; What was
the first fire on which ICS was used? Where?
A: In 1975 the Pacioma Fire, Tujunga RD, Angeles NF was the FIRST use of the
ICS organization. Dick Montague was the IC and Jim Stumpf was the S&R (Search &
Rescue). The name change to Operations Section Chief did not come until later.
Dick Montague and Jim Stumpf switched back and forth from IC to S&R, because at
the time all were still experimenting the the ICS system. The Fulton Hot Shots,
along with many other crews were assigned to the Pacioma Fire. Participants
included the Del Rosa, Vista Grande, Little T, Palomar, Los Prietos, Texas
Canyon, Luguna, and El Carisohotshot crews, and more but I just can't recall all
of them. (Dave Provencio)
More info here:
"IHC or SJ-->Fire Manager" Project
Q: Who taught the first "new" Incident Command System
classes at Marana?
A: Dale Jarrell and John Russell were the first to teach the "new" ICS
system at Marana. (Terrie, Dale's daughter)
Q: When did the drip torch make its debut?
We definitely used drip-torches in 1973 to light backfires on the Cougar Creek Fire (Nez Perce N.F. in Idaho), and I think I saw
them in use on the Klamath N.F. the summer before that. (Harv Dabling)
Drip Torches- They pre-date me. I started in 1968 and they were in use.
Made by Western Fire Equipment Co. from the S.F. bay area (Millbrae?).
Their origin was probably from the ranch and farm community. In CA the
firing tool of choice before the torch was the Barron (California) firetool.
It has a reduced McLeod head on an 18" long steel shaft so that you could
wrap a load of grass in the head and use it as a torch. The angle of the
hoe blade is set for slicing, sort of, under the grass matt. I have a pair
of Australian drip torches that have less volume than our standard torch and
the wand is about 24" long. Named the "Fire Bug". (JWatt)
If I have it right, and for the life of me I can not remember who told me, maybe my dad age 79. Drip torches were originally used by orchardists for igniting the smug pots which were being used to heat the orchards during freezing conditions to not lose the flowering buds during the earlier night and morning hours.
My dad remembers using them at the early age. (Zimm)
I stumbled onto something the other day at a fire that made me think of a
question from the IMWTK section. The question was asked of when the drip torch
made its first debut and although I don't have a date for it I do have a picture
and some information that would seem to back up what Zimm said about the drip
torch having been around for some time and being used in orchards first. This
photo was taken at a fire that butted up to a plum orchard (I think they were
plums as I recall) and as you can see its looking pretty aged.
The earliest drip torch I ever saw was one recovered by a Forest Service
archeologist from a 1920's/1930's era railroad logging camp site in central
Oregon. It consisted of a softball-sized piece of pumice rock with a groove cut
into and around the rock (pummy rock is very soft and porous), a length of
baling wire wrapped around the rock in the groove, and extending out into a long
(2-foot) handle with a loop in the end of it for a handle. With it was an empty
coffee can with holes punched in the sides and another piece of wire threaded
through the holes to be used as a carrying handle. Local old-timer logging lore
said that the railroad loggers used to burn their slash every fall, and the way
it was done was to put kerosene or lamp oil in the coffee can and ignite it,
then walk through the woods dunking the pummy rock "drip torch" into the burning
kerosene or lamp oil and dripping fire around the woods..........the last time I
saw this artifact was in a display case at the Chemult Ranger District office in
Chemult, OR (Winema NF), a number of years ago. (Barb Bonefeld)
During some late night reading, I ran across an article in “Fire Management
Today” (Volume 63, No. 3, Summer 2003) titled “Lessons from Large Fires on
National Forests in 1938”. This article appears to be a compilation of early
AARs. Within the discussion of the Arrowhead Fire on the San Bernardino Forest
was the following comment.
“All line constructed and lost was uncompleted line. All backfire work
that was done was held although it slopped over in places. Orchard
torches were used. No acreage was burned through backfiring which would
not have been lost by the fire anyway.”
This is the earliest documented use of orchard torches (our current drip
torch's predecessor) that I have run across. The link to all of the Fire
Management Today issues is
Q: What is the fuel used in the driptorch and what
A: Diesel and gasoline in a 3: 1 ratio.
Q: Who invented the helitorch?
A: Ernie Johnson had a passion for keeping folks safe, so much so that he was instrumental in the development of the Helitorch. He worked on this and other innovations because he did not like exposing folks to hand lighting slash units. He knew of the dangers first hand, as he had lit many slash units on the old Shelton Ranger District of the Olympic N. F. Innovators and visionaries like him made the Forest Service the great organization that it was/is! He even tried to light slash units with a laser... 20 YEARS AGO! It was not tech for tech's sake, or to earn points for promotion... it was to reduce exposure for the firefighters that he loved!
A: It's always been my understanding that former Canadian Forestry
Service fire research scientist John Muraro was responsible for inventing the
helitorch or flying drip torch as it was originally called. I can still
distinctly remember discussing this topic with John over several glasses of
Johnny Walker scotch at a CFS fire research meeting at the Petawawa Forest
Experiment Station (Chalk River, Ontario) in the fall of 1977.
Here's a paper prepared by John that describes some of the early history
that led up to the modern day helitorch. John presented this paper at the
Western Forest Fire Committee meeting (Western Forestry & Conservation
Association) held on December 2, 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Regards,
Q: When were the first Fireline Explosives (FLE) used on fire and where?
A: The Los Padres IHC did the first experimental testing of FLE in conjunction with
MTDC in the late sixties and early seventies. The crew shot 10,000 feet on the Rattlesnake Fire (LPF,
R5) in 1975. (Retired Shot)
Q: What were some of the early scientific instruments
developed for the study of relative humidity, fuel moisture and the like,
related to wildland fire?
A: Some good descriptions
HERE of fire research instruments developed in the 1930s and 1940s.
Q: When were the first fire lookouts built in the West?
A: The first lookouts were built in national
forests in the tops of 10- to 30-foot trees sometime around 1910.
Q: Were early lookouts mostly women and, of them, which one might be considered the most "stylish"? (Tongue firmly in cheek!)
A: One of the earliest and most stylish women lookouts has to be Helen Dow
who "manned" Devil's Head Lookout in Colorado's Pike NF during most of
the 1920's. Lookouts might see no one for long periods of time but could look
across the forests below and see towers of other lookouts that might be as much
as a hundred miles away.
During World War II, many lookouts in Idaho and elsewhere in the
west were staffed by young men, many not much more than boys (16 yr old). One
such story is that of Warren Yahr who describes his experiences in Smoke Chaser.
He describes talking nightly with other young lookouts whose lights he could see
on distant mountaintops after dusk on the partyline phone. (Cheryl)
Q: First female lookouts?
A: The first female lookouts were
1913, Hallie Morse Daggett, Eddy's Gulch Lookout, Klamath NF. Ranger W.H
McCarthy listed her qualifications as "an ardent advocate of the Forest Service,
not afraid of anything that walks, creeps or flies, and a perfect lady". She
started work June 1, 1913 and remained on the job for 14 years.
Harriet Kelley of the Tahoe NF, and Mollie Ingoldsby of the Plumas NF became
lookouts in 1918. (AW, Source: Fire in the Forest, A history of forest fire
control on the national forests in California, 1898-1956. Robert W. Cermak)
Q: Longest serving Lookout?
Nancy Rebecca Hood has to be one of the longest serving women in fire. Soon to
celebrate 70 years young, Nancy has
been working for the Forest Service for fifty years on the Klamath National
Forest, as a Fire Detection Lookout. She is a woman who has seen and experienced
nearly every facet of change the Forest Service has gone through in 50 years and
excelled through it all, a career that began in 1959. (more on theysaid 7/12/08
Nancy Hood Narrative (28 K doc file) ;
Nancy Hood 50 yrs (375 K pdf file))
A: A bit of northern history from here in Alberta - in 1996 Sam Fomuk
retired after 50 years on lookouts. Sam is still alive and doing well in
Edmonton, Alberta. As with others who have served so long, Sam has observed a
great many changes in the forest fire business. Truly from horses to
helicopters! (Tim Klein, Alberta)
Q: Oldest Lookout?
A: Fire Lookout Jim Sheridan will retire 9/07 after 36 years of government
service on the Sawtooth NF, ID. Jim is 89 years young and is possibly the oldest
fire lookout to date.
South Idaho Press article
Q: Who was the first person who became widely known for suggesting use of the black as a safety zone?
Wag Dodge, Foreman of the Mann Gulch Fire on August 5, 1949, used fire to create a burnt area where he laid down in the ash and survived the burn over. But in WI where several logging camp employees were caught by the fire and, in trying to protect the logging camp, escaped into the black.
Q: Where did the term Spike Camp come from?
A: Evidently this is pre SJ, pre HS, from CCC Days.
CCC Side Camps, Fly Camps and Spike Camps (a hotshot)
Q: When/where were the first non-Native American prescribed burns done?
A: Controlled burns were first used for fire management to maintain fire
breaks in the New Jersey Pine Barrens in 1928. (-NJ Lew)
Bibliography of the use of fire by Indians by Gerald Williams, USFS (2001)
Q: When were the 10 Fire Orders created? Are they really orders?
A: The 10 Standard Fire Orders were formed in 1957 (historical
directive) as a consequence of the
Inaja Fire (November 25, 1956, Cleveland NF) that killed 11 firefighters: 2 FS
firefighters and 9 from Viejas Honor Camp.
Actually they were presented in those days as "guidelines for engagement and
disengagement" of the fire, and they should still be considered guidelines,
not hard and fast rules. <Check
HERE for more
info on that; also
Q: When, how, and why were the original 13 Watchout
Situations developed? Were they developed from previous fatality fires? If so,
which ones? Is there any written documentation left as proof or is it all urban
legend and oral history passed on from old salt to young salt?Jennifer Thackaberry
Ziegler's pdf article on the development of the
13 to 18 Watchout Situations is linked here
A: I know that they originally showed up in the Standards for Survival
package from 1987 and then the additional were added in '89 or so. There is a gap
in history from '67 to '75 that is blank on this and to when the watchout
situations were developed. They appear to be mentioned additionally in '75, but
with no idea where they came from. Northnight (02/10/10)
How the “13 Situations that Shout ‘Watch Out’” Became the “18 Watchout
Situations.” (2008, Aug 4). pdf file (Tim, 0210)
Here's more info on this topic:
13 Watchout Situations
Q: Who coined the acronym LCES, when, and what does it stand for?
A: Paul Gleason in 1991 and it stands for Lookouts, Communications, Escape
Routes, and Safety Zones. For more on Paul's contributions including LCES see
LCES manuscript and our
tribute to Paul.
Q: When did rangers begin using patrol vehicles? What were they like?
A: The Tahoe NF used a 26 foot gasoline powered launch stationed on the
Northwest shore of Lake Tahoe. It patrolled the lake looking for fires from
The Sierra NF used motorcycle patrolmen beginning in 1912. In 1913, the Sierra
NF began using a Model T runabout outfitted with railroad wheels to patrol the
tracks of the San Joaquin and Eastern railroad tracks.
The Angeles NF possibly had the first aerial patrol in 1913 when Ranger Parnay
rode with a pilot observing a series of test fires. In 1916 the Angeles
experimented with the use of hot air balloons to detect fires.
1919 saw the first organized use of aircraft for patrol in California when the
US Army Air Service and the US Forest Service worked together to patrol the
Angeles and Cleveland National Forests. (AW, Source: Fire in the Forest, A
history of forest fire control on the national forests in California, 1898-1956.
Robert W. Cermak)
Q: What is the oldest wildland fire engine still in service in the Federal
agencies? (Fire Geek post on theysaid, 7/22/08)
A: I have a theory that old fire engines never die, they’re just swapped
around and get a new coat of paint . For example, the Joshua Tree Model 61 in
this picture was one of the first of four Model 61’s the Park Service
purchased on Forest Service contract in 1990. Two of them went to Yosemite and
the last one was assigned to Sequoia National Park. The Sequoia engine was used
last year at the Mojave National Preserve until their replacement Model 14
arrived. The Joshua Tree engine was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service
and is still in use. See attached photo,
E-1. That would put it as going on its 18th year of fire response; a long
ways to go to catch up to the famous Model 60 that was still listed in the 2003
FICC area dispatch plan as reserve Engine 3633. 33 years after the San
Bernardino NF placed it in service!
Q: How are Engines numbered?
A: The numbering system has changed over time. It depends on the agency and
the region or state.
Forest Service engines in CA have a 2 digit number, with the first
representing the district and the second representing the engine (example: E-41
is the first engine on district 4). FS engines in other regions have or are
switching to 3 or 4 number systems.
BLM engines have a 4 digit numbering system with the first representing
the xx, the second representing the district or zone, the 3rd representing the
resource type, and the 4th the unit or particular numbered resource (example: )
NPS engines have a x digit numbering system with the first representing
FWS engines have a 4 digit numbering system, with the first representing
the region, the second representing the zone or refuge, the 3rd representing the
resource type, and the 4th the unit or particular numbered resource (example:
8191 is Water Tender #1 in Region 8, Zone 1)
The best way to check out the numbers of engines or other resources on forests
is to go to
for the forest
Q: Does anyone know the earliest attempts at aerial
water drops for fighting fire and what were the water bombs made of?
A: The most commonly accepted belief of aerial suppression indicates that in
1930, kegs of water were dropped from a Ford Trimotor in an attempt to quench a
fire. The water dissipated prior to reaching the ground. In 1931-32, Red
Jensen piloting a World War I "Jenny" dropped water from saddle tanks with
varying degrees of success.
Prior to WW II, a Stinson Reliant operating from Newhall, CA dropped lightweight
five gallon cans with water which ruptured on impact, spreading the liquid over
the fire. Between 1936 and 1939 various mixtures and types of fluids were
dropped in containers by aircraft.
In 1947 & 1948 the USFS and the US Army Air Force fitted 165 gallon tanks with
fins to P-47 and B-29 aircraft. Some of these tanks were "skip-bombed" which
would explode on impact, while others were fitted with proximity fuses that
detonated the material approximately 50 feet above the ground. This method
proved quite dangerous and was never adopted for use.
In 1953 during Douglas Aircraft's stress testing of a DC-7, water was dropped
from an aircraft. It was noted that a significant portion of water reached the
ground in sizeable quantities. Douglas informed the Forest Service and other
firefighting agencies of their observations. Further testing proved that the
aircraft was a viable delivery platform, however cost prohibitive as these were
In 1954, Major Warren Schroder of the El Toro Marine Base in California,
attached two 250 gallon napalm tanks to an aircraft. The tanks were fitted with
electric detonators and glass plates on the ends. When detonated the glass
plates shattered and the force of the wind pushed the water out. Also in 1954,
Paul Mantz installed a plywood container with two tanks to an ex- Navy
TBM Avenger Torpedo Bomber. The capacity was 600 gallons. This aircraft was
tested at Operation Fire Stop at Camp Pendleton, California, and later that year
made two operational drops on a fire at Jamestown, CA. This was the first
recorded bulk water drop on a fire in the United States.
In 1955 the first operational airtanker was developed in Willows, by the Willows
Flying Service at the request of the Fire Control officer (Joe Ely) for
the Mendocino National Forest. A Boeing Stearman 75 "Caydet" was modified with a
170 gallon tank at the Willows Airport. this aircraft, N75081, became the first
registered free fall airtanker in the history of aviation. The first "air drop"
was made on the Mendenhall Fire, August 12, 1955 on the Mendocino National
In 1956, the first airtanker "squadron" in the US was founded at Willows,
California in a joint project between the US Forest Service and the California
Division of Forestry. There were a total of seven crop dusting PT-17 "Stearmans"
and N3N-3 "Yellow Birds" capable of carrying 125 gallons of water or 100 gallons
of "Borate". The first eight pilots were Floyd Nolta, Dale Nolta, Vance Nolta,
Harold Hendrickson, L.H. McDurley, Ray Varney, Warren Bullock, and Frank
Prentice. Late in this season the squadron ferried planes to the "Niaja
Fire" in Southern California and made over 1,000 drops. Press coverage coined
the phrase "Borate Bomber" as a phrase.
Beginning in 1956 the CDF went on to test a number of different aircraft. In
1957 the Forest Service purchased eight Grumman TBM "Avengers" and tanked them
to carry 600 gallons of retardant. From this point on retardant, aircraft and
delivery systems were rapidly expanded and developed. (Tower Tom, 3/09)
Check out the big artifact at MSO:
Smokejumper 2 bottom of the page (MTWO, 3/09)
Q: When did the first air tanker drop a load on a fire and what fire was it?
A: The First AirTanker used on a fire in the United States was based out of Willows, California, on
the Mendocino National Forest, 1955. Unknown what the first fire dropped on was.
(Tom Caves) Plaque honoring the
men who started the air tanker program.
Just reading an old book dated 1966, "Principles of Forest Fire Management"
by Char and Chatten (no pun intended I'm sure) and it states; " Then the fortuitous circumstance of testing the bulk release of water from a torpedo
bomber on the Jamieson Fire in Orange County in 1954 gave renewed hope of technical success. This occurred during a joint agency experiment known as
"Operation Firestop." (Smitty)
"Principals of Forest Fire Management" was by Ray CLAR and Len Chatten.
Glad there was no pun intended. It is a good historical review of operations
in the 50's and 60's. (JWatt)
Operation Firestop, which someone else mentioned, was an experiment in
1954, in which fires were set, and then different types of aircraft were
tested. I believe this took place on Camp Pendleton Marine base, near San
Diego. The result of this, it was felt that the aircraft were not an
effective method of fire suppression.
The First Operational Air Tanker was developed by the Willows Flying
Service in 1955. It was a Boeing Stearman 75 "Cadet" Agricultural
Aircraft N75081, modified with a 170 Gallon Tank. This was done under the
guidance of Joe Ely, who was the Fire Control Officer on the Mendocino
National Forest, at that time. July 23, 1955 was the date of the first practice
drop. Floyd Nolta had cut a hole in the bottom of a Stearman biplane, added a
hinged gate and a snag and pull-rope, and filled it with water. His brother
Vance made the practice drop.
First Air Tanker Drop on a wildfire was made on the Mendonhall Fire, August
12, 1955, on the Mendocino National Forest. Vance Nolta Was the Pilot.
In 1956, the Willows Flying Service increased its fleet of air tankers, to
the first Air Tanker squadron of 7 air tankers, which consisted of, 4 Stearman PT-17's and 3 Naval Aircraft Factory N3Ns.
Tanker Pilots were: Dale, Floyd and Vance Nolta, Ray Varney, Frank
Prentice, Harold Hendrickson, L.H. "Mac" McCurley, and Warren Bullock.
Also in1956 Sodium Calcium Borate, the first air-dropped retardant, rains down
on the Inaja Fire, Cleveland NF. (-SoCal Capt)
I would like to provide some additional information for your "Inquiring Minds Want To Know" section.
One of the questions asks about the first airtanker drop on a wildfire. The answer spoke about the successful use of a Stearman 75 Cadet in Willows,
CA in 1955.
In the early 1940's, the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS) in Canada was
experimenting with the idea of using aircraft to "bomb" forest fires. An OPAS pilot/engineer by the name of Carl Crossley modified the floats on a
Noorduyn Norseman bushplane to scoop and drop 100 gallons of water. His first successful attack on a wildfire took place near
Temagami, Ontario in August 1945. He was able to knock down the flames so that ground crews could get in and
do their job.
In 1946, the OPAS tried to convert a PBY-5A Canso for waterbombing; it was later converted to a spray plane.
As with many agencies in Canada and the United States, the OPAS experimented with numerous types of aircraft to battle forest fires.
Now in its 81st year of operation, the OPAS uses 9 Bombardier CL-415 aircraft for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
For more information use the following link:
(Chris Klitbo )
Q: What kinds of airtanker resources were used in the 1970s?
A: California -
airtanker line-up sheet for the 1974 fire season
I retyped it as it was printed. Pretty interesting to look back at all of the
various aircraft. It would be neat to have other readers do the same thing for
any other line-ups they have in their files and post them here. I also have 1975
and 1976 and will send in if you like. (“Another CDF BC”)
Q: When did the first helicopter make a water drop on a fire? a load of
retardant? and on what fires?
A: Helicopter drops- I don't know the exact date. There was (is) an old 16mm
training film about helicopters and firefighting. It showed a Bell 47G being used to drop water from a
hard tank, laying hose from a tray and maybe heli-jumping. I recall that it was the late 50's
or early 60's when it was made. The firefighters wore jeans, cotton shirts and metal
Q: What was/is an IR Crew?
A: Interregional Fire Crew (for some discussion of the Idaho Panhandle IR
crews, see 9/2/09 theysaid.)
Q: What are the Cobra, the Scorpion and the Black
Eagle crews and when did they begin?
A: Today after a 60-year, rich history on the Sequoia National Forest and
Giant Sequoia National Monument, the Porterville Organized Crews are one
dimension of our firefighting organization that now number over 400 personnel.
These firefighters, many from Mexican and Mexican-American decent, are not
“hot-shots,” but are a workforce available 12 months a year, nationwide for a
variety of forest project work. Today’s local help is a disciplined organization
that is divided into three sectors; Scorpions, Cobras, and Black Eagles, and
include firefighters 18+ years of age, who pass all basic firefighting tests.
The history of the Organized Crews are colorful valley tales. In the early
years, around 1925, when a fire started, forest rangers had to hire local help.
The ranger had to find 30 individuals to go out into the "back woods," stake out
and fight fire at $.71 an hour (1948), and work straight through a 24-36 hour
shift. Usually the ranger worked with the local Sheriff's office to "gather up
the boys." Over time as a result of this predictable firefighting work, the
local men organized themselves to become the Porterville Organized Crews.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, fire crew bosses were chosen and then they
selected their individual crews. When word went out a firefighting crew was
being gathered, it wasn’t uncommon for 500 individuals to be waiting outside the
Forest Service warehouse looking for work. Selections were made on a
"first-come, first-served" basis. The men stood in line, grabbed the beltloop of
the individual in front of them and waited. When they numbered 25 they were
assigned to a crew boss, loaded up in open trucks with aluminum seats, or cattle
trucks, and were carted off long distances to the fire. Many of these trips were
a 17-hour drive up a dirt road. After reaching the fire, the crews then walked
long distances to work on the fireline. A firefighter's personal gear was
limited to a toothbrush, one pair of spare socks and a jacket.
In the 1970's, standardized firefighter training began. The Porterville Crews
implemented discipline, developed their own dress code, bought high quality
professional fire clothing and equipment. Over the last 70 years, the biggest
changes have focused on firefighter safety, training, and transportation. Today,
the Organized Crew's work is varied and sought after nationwide regarding:
- wildland and prescribed fires,
- managed resource benefit fires in the wilderness,
- burned area rehabilitation,
- fuel reduction,
- timber stand improvement,
- fuel break installation,
- road clearing/brushing/chipping, and
- trail brushing and maintenance.
In the last four years, the program has mobilized crews for wildfires an
average of 84 times each year; the majority were fourteen day assignments. Each
year, on average, the crews earn $3.5 million in firefighting employee salaries,
most in Tulare County. Five, of the 15-crews, are experienced with managed
resource benefit fire management practices. These crews have extensive
experience using wilderness spike camp tactics and utilization of pack trains on
national forests. In 2003, the Organized Crews also participated in the Shuttle
Recovery efforts which was a significant nationwide historical event etched in
the minds of many Americans.
My warmest thanks go out to all the men who have worked and been a part of these
Organized Crews during the past 60-years. Each of your lives are part of a rich
and colorful American tapestry called the U.S. Forest Service. (SMS, 9/6/09)
Q: What's the history of the Native American crews and how many are there today?
A: Native American fire managers and "crews" existed long before America was
"discovered" by the white man, at least that's my opnion. Mellie (grin)
When was the Pulaski invented? What does it look like?
A: Photo of Firefighter
Handtools A Pulaski is on the far lower right. It's a combo ax and
mattock. In 1920 the first Pulaski Tool was manufactured. Some more good info on Pulaski here:
The Pulaski Project
Today Vol 63-1.pdf (large pdf file) has stories of the big blowup (pp 19-22)
and the invention of the Pulaski tool (pp 22-23).
Another alternative story to the one that says Pulaski invented the "Pulaski".
Here's yet another version of the Pulaski story. A guy by the name of
Joe Halm actually invented the tool. Joe was Wallace Idaho District
Ranger Ed Pulaski's alternate (assistant) when the 1910 Great Idaho
Fires erupted. Joe, like Ed, was credited with saving his crew, several
miles away along the St. Joe River, by burrowing into an island sand
bar, at about the same time Ed herded his men into a mine shaft at
gunpoint to save them.
That next winter, Pulaski asked Halm to come up with a tool that might
work better than a shovel for planting trees. He went to his USFS
Wallace shop, cut one blade off a double-bit ax, welded it crossways to
create the tool.
When his boss, Pulaski, demonstrated the tool at the 1911 regional
ranger's meeting, it was met with little acceptance. Little did he know
that it would later become the famous "pulaski".
[In a letter: 'Joseph B. Halm 1944']
Ray Kresek, author
"Fire Lookouts of the Northwest"
Q: What is a McLeod and when was it created?
A: Photo of Firefighter
Handtools. A McLeod is a combi tool - hoe and rake- located on the lower
right, to the left of the Pulaski. Here's an old picture of a
FF using a McLeod on the Dunsmuir Fire in 1933.
Q: Are Hotshots the only kind of Type I handcrew? If not, what are the requirements to qualify as being Type I?
There are NWCG Type I Crews, including Hotshots from around the nation,
and there are Hotshots in R5, who have to rise too a higher certification
standard. (They are certified and their certs are reviewed in a 2-day process
every few years by the Safety First Committee of FMOs.)
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has around 180+ Type 1 Fire Crews. These are seventeen-person crews plus Fire Captain. Most are adult inmates from the Calif. Dept. of Corrections, the remainder are wards from the Calif. Youth Authority.
(Mike from Arroyo Grande)
Type 1 crews- ICS 420-1 (2001), page 11-3, lists the crew requirements.
Highest training level, no use restrictions, fully mobilized, highest
experience level, permanently assigned supervision. The number on the crew
varies by agency as does the interpretation of how the requirements are met.
The crew labels are CDC, CYA, CYA, hotshot, regular, inmate, paid, and flycrew. By the way, with CCC pulling out of La Cima and Butte Fire Centers
CDF is requesting to put paid crews into the Butte fire center. The area
around the camp is too urbanized for inmates. La Cima will once again be a
Conservation Camp staffed by inmate firefighters. (JWatt)
Regarding CDF Inmate Type I crews, See discussion Theysaid 10/26/04, and Type
Minimum Crew Standards.
Q: What's the difference between R5's Regional Hotshot Crews (RHCs) and Interagency
Hotshot Crews (IHCs)? Requirements?
RHCs were created during MEL buildup 2000-2003. They are funded on R5 home
forests in a way that is different than National IHCs. IHCs are a shared national
resource and, while RHCs fall completely under their home forest's budget, IHCs
have a larger part of their funding coming directly from national dollars. Both must meet the requirements of a Type I crew (see link below).
There was some discussion of this on theysaid, 10/04. (Ab.)
A: Essentially none, as of 8/11/05. At that time, the R5 BOD voted
to do away with the term "RHC" and "MEL Type I Crew". When any of the crews working
to achieve hotshot status achieve it as determined by the Safety First
Committee, they will be called "IHC" and treated as IHC. The only other
note: given that they are the last crews certified, if cuts of Type I handcrews
become required, they will be the first to be cut. (Mellie)
Q: What other kinds of handcrews are there? Requirements?
There are Type I, Type 2 with IA capabilities, Type 2 and Type 3
Minimum (2003) Crew Standards for all types
Q: First hotshot crew?
Del Rosa Hotshots formed in 1946. (Mellie)
Q: In what year was each of the California IHCs founded?
"IHC or SJ --> Fire Manager" Project (project underway)
46 Del Rosa
48 Los Padres
54 Texas Canyon
58 El Cariso
74 Bear Divide, Fulton, Horseshoe Meadows, Lassen, Laguna, Mendocino,
Plumas, Stanislaus, Vista Grande
81 Arrowhead, Eldorado
83 Kern Valley
89 Rio Bravo
92 Diamond Mountain
01 Klamath, Modoc
02 Crane Valley, Golden Eagle, Kings River
03 Big Bear, Groveland, Mill Creek, Salmon River, Springville
05 Arroyo Seco, Feather River, Palomar
06 American River, Breckenridge, Shasta Lake
Q: Which IHC has produced the most Type 1 ICs?
"IHC or SJ --> Fire Manager" Project (project underway)
Q: Which IHC has produced the most Type 1 and Type 2 ICs?
"IHC or SJ --> Fire Manager" Project (project underway)
Q: When did FS begin the 5-minute step test? How about the BLM?
Best I can remember was about '75-'76 (I'm almost sure I took my first one in Saratoga, WY 5/6-75.)
In '71 we were part of the test group for the step test and had an additional member on the crew whose primary job was to periodically take pulse rates and asked us to categorize how strenuous the level of work was that we had been doing prior to our pulse being taken. This information was then recorded to be later forwarded to the researchers. I don't remember exactly when we began using the step test in R5. I do remember being required to take it in around '73, though.
The first year that the Step test was required for all was 1975. (Ab.)
Q: When did the FS begin the Work Capacity Test? How about the BLM?
A: USFS in 2000 or 2001, how short my memory is! I know it's recorded
in the archives here.
Q: Orange fire shirts?
74? earlier... (Old Ranger)
I'm almost positive orange or yellow Nomex shirts came in 1969 or 1970. I remember I was fighting fires in regular clothing (khaki
shirts and Levi's) in Region-4 during the summer of 1968. (Harv Dabling)
Orange Nomex- CDF may have used nomex shirts in 1970. My memory cells
aren't what they used to be! We didn't wear nomex in '68 or '69(?). I
worked fires with the El Cariso HS in '68 and don't recall whether or not
they had orange fire shirts. I worked on the Bighorn HS in '71 and we had
yellow FR (fire retardant) treated cotton fire shirts. The crew may have had orange shirts
in '70. They had a very short life span. (JWatt)
In the late 60's the CDF had some nomex. When I joined them in 1970 I used my
issued nomex as a Riverside VF till they received the right size for me. In 1970
or early 71 the state tested several types of nomex in tan that looked like the
tan work uniform shirt. The other color was a reddish/orange which I wore till
it fell apart. It was a different type of nomex, very soft. The third was a fr
cotton, olive green. I still have this one. The inmate crews tested several
colors and decided on blue. That did not last long as the local agencies had
blue work uniforms and some were nomex uniforms. Orange was decided on as it was
highly visible except for a few color impaired people. (Linker)
I checked my photo album and know that yellow fire shirts were in use in R5 in '71. (I still have an orange one with my gear.)
A: Started looking online for information on hardhats. Found on the National
Agricultural Library pictures starting in 1952 where hardhats were showing up in pictures of western firefighters in Idaho. Colorado firefighters weren't using them in pictures about the same time. But from 1953 on hardhats were common, which the 'Saladbowl' appearing to be the choice. One picture in '63 showed the cap style, but that's the only one found.
Q: How about the first fire shelter deployment?
That would have to be Mr. Pulaski and his flock down in a mine shelter, wouldn't it? Not sure if it should count for deployments but what about Peshtigo WI 1871, Hinkley and others in MN and WI in 1894? Many folks took shelter in ponds, streams and wells. Not all of em
were firefighters, but I'm sure some were fighting to protect their homes and
First Recorded Fire Shelter Deployment:
October 29, 1804 William Clark. Describing an Indian child who survived a
fire: " The cause of him being Saved was a Green
Buffalo Skin thrown over him by his mother." (Pulaski, DF and Old Fire
"The Prarie was Set on fire (or caught by accident) by a young man of the Mandins, the fire went with such velocity that it burnt to death a man & woman, who Could not get to any place of Safty, one man a woman & Child much burnt and Several narrowly escaped the flame. ... The couse of his being Saved was a Green buffalow Skin was thrown over him by his mother who perhaps had more fore Sight for the pertection of her Son, and [l]ess for herself than those who escaped the flame, the Fire did not burn under the Skin leaveing the grass round the boy. This fire passed our Camp last [night] about 8 oClock P.M. it went with great rapitidity and looked
Tremendioius." (Quote sent in by J-Bob.)
Q: Fire Shelters? History of the
technical development of the fire shelter.
I remember the first fire shelter we saw was in 1961. They were issued to El Cariso Hot Shots for testing. The shelter was in a cone shape and was designed to be used standing upright. It had a slit in it for one to see where they were going.
One day on a fire in the Angeles NF, we thought we would conduct a field drill. We had all of them deploy the shelter and walk around the hill we were on to "get the feel". Air attack saw us and tried to explain what he was seeing to the Fire Boss. We probably got our ass chewed for it, but we did get the testing done. We never had the unfortunate luck to have to use the fire shelter while I was on the crew in 1961 and
1962. It was the best of my days in the service. (Ole Hot Shot)
Teepee Fire Shelter 11/29/63 from Life Magazine
I know that in '71 the Northern California Hot Shots (Redding) had fire shelters assigned and taken on the line while contract crews did not
(I contemplated using it on one fire on the LP). (DAS)
We were required to have our fire shelters on at all times when I was with El Cariso (So. Calif.) in 1972, so I suspect that that
was the year they became required, possibly even a year or two prior to that.
NOTE: The big push for testing and research for firefighting PPE (especially fire shelters and such) started after the tragedy of the
Loop Fire on the Angeles N.F. where 12 firefighters from El Cariso died (several others severely injured).
[Ab note: Gordon King told me that safety was beginning to be stressed
prior to the Loop Fire. He's long thought that if the crew hadn't slowed way
down to cross the big slide very carefully one by one, they would have been done
and out of the way when the Loop Fire blew up.]
Fire Shelters- I had one in '71 with the FS, wasn't mandatory to carry. They became
mandatory in CDF after the fatalities on the Spanish Ranch fire in San Luis Obispo Unit. I
think '73 was the start of CDF's full time use, not mandatory before that. (JWatt)
I was on the Marble Cone Fire in 1977, my second season with CDF. Great
memories. I was stationed in Humboldt-Del Norte Ranger unit and we drove down as
part of a strike team from Fortuna. My engine was a 1966 Ford Model 1, equipped
with a 500' pin lay in the hose bed, a PTO and auxiliary pump, a Homelight 925
chainsaw with a 36" bar, and a 500 gallon tank. My captain was a former marine
and vietnam vet who seemed to be the hardest man I ever met (he was killed the
next year while falling a tree). We wore "banana suits" over our polyester
uniforms, were still called the "Division of Forestry", and didn't use fire
shelters, (although the USFS did). I saw no naked women on the fire or in
the showers but certainly thought about them a lot. (Joe Hill)
CDF began using fire shelters after the Spanish Ranch Fire in 1979. (“Another
Q: How many ways are there to pack a hosepack for a wildland progressive
A: Count 'em up:
Complete_hosepack_guide (2,168 K pdf)
Q: Where can I find the history of fire behavior research?
A: Historical Chronology of Wildland Fire Research in the Interior Western United States (1913 - 2000) HERE
Q: When was NIFC created? 1993, National Interagency Fire Center was established in Boise, Idaho.
The fire center there was called BIFC before that. (Mellie)
Q: Anyone have fire stats on the fires summer of 2000?
A: Here are some interesting IMWTK trivia provided by Greg Greenhoe at the CIIM Workshop in Sacramento
(04/01). (NorCal Tom):
On the peak fire day last summer - Aug 29, 2000 - there were
28,462 firefighters on duty
42 air tankers
84 fires greater than 100 acres
1,642,579 acres on fire in 16 states
The Clear Creek Fire had the largest, longest sustained run of any US fire, burning more than 30 miles in heavy timber.
The Montana fires alone engaged
2,379 state and federal firefighters,
1500 local firefighters and
950,120 acres burned
Q: How many Type 3 Incident Commanders dropped their certs in the year
following the legal SNAFU resulting from the Cramer tragedy?
A: 400 (noname MC)
Q: When did the first CL-415 drop water in Alaska? North of the Arctic Circle?
On 7/27/04 Ontario's CL-415's Tanker 272 and 278 while on loan to Alaska BLM
made history by being the first CL-415's to drop water in Alaska and also the
first CL-415's to fight fire north of the Arctic Circle. They attacked 2 fires
and dropped 47 loads each during the mission. On the first fire they stopped a
fire from burning a remote cabin and on the second fire they were able to stop a
fire from over running an Incident Command Team's Base Camp. (Tony)
Q: When did the smokejumpers begin fighting fire
and what did they wear/carry?
A: In 1939 the FS experimented with airdropping water/supplies, dummies, and
finally live smokejumpers. Their rule of thumb was to have the fire out by 10
the next morning. Basic jump gear included two canopies, a felt-padded jumpsuit,
a football helmet, ankle braces, logger boots, a jockstrap, tools and
Q: Which smokejumper was the model for the Smokejumper Action Figure (by
America's Finest) sold in 2002?
I heard from a smokejumper bro that Missoula Jumper
Kevin Lee was used for the action figure. Smokejumpers call it the Kevin Lee
Q: When was the Smoky Bear Icon created?
A: The Forest Service create the Smokey Bear
icon in 1945. Later, an orphaned cub named Smokey generated so much fan mail
that he was assigned his own ZIP code.
Q: When were Campfire permits required for the first time?
A: In 1915 the Angeles National Forest was the first to require campfire
permits, by 1920 all Southern California forests required the permits. (AW,
Source: Fire in the Forest, A history of forest fire control on the national
forests in California, 1898-1956. Robert W. Cermak)
Q: Showers in Firecamp?
When were the first? What were they like? The first shower installations?
A: My first recollection of showers in a fire camp was I
think back in 63 or 64 (I'm ageing myself) on the Fouts Fire. At that time they
were pretty much open air, but surrounded by tarps strung up on pipes to provide
some privacy. They had separate hours for men and women, but many of the women
did not pay attention to the hours. (TC)
Showers: El Cariso in 1973. Base camps were often located adjacent to creeks or
other natural water sources, and skinny-dipping was our bath after shift.
Towards the end of season we saw our first crew of all women. We worked
night shift, they had the days. One afternoon on our way out we had orders to
send 3 people back to get new lunches (the ones we had been issued had
"expired"). Another crew member and I went with our squad boss. As we
walked the ridge above camp, we could see the female crew enjoying their swim.
SB told me, "Go ahead and tell the rest of the crew when you get back.....who's
gonna believe you?" Dennis B. should remember this.
One fire I was on that year did have a "shower unit", but it was all creek water
pumped through a pipe with holes drilled in it. Still felt good! (Old Fire Guy)
On the showers, my first recollection of showers in fire Camp was on the Skinner
Mill and Hogg fires; there may have been some prior, but because there were
women sharing the showers I remember those two. It was common
enough that it wasn't that big a deal and I don't remember any men running out,
but I wasn't looking at the door. The River behind the fire camp at the Forks
also had plenty bathers of both sexes which was cool, the National Guardsman
being killed in a diving accident kinda overshadowed that though and put the
skids on swimming. (cbork)
During the Marble Cone Fire, Los Padres NF in 1977, the national
guard was providing shower units in the field, when they worked. There were
supposed to be different times for male and female. While my crew was on the
line, we were told one female firefighter, who had been on the line several days
(no strict hour limits or conveniences like you see on major fires now), did not
want to wait hours and yelled in to ask if anyone cared if she came in. Everyone
was too tired to care and she showered with the guys. The shower hours were
adjusted after that. Women on crews then had to really prove themselves and
could more than hold their own. (Fyr Etr)
For more descriptions check Theysaid starting 6/26/06. Ab.
Q: Women using showers in Firecamp? (Women on crews...)
Question that went out:
"Last week, a few folks on theysaid were discussing the first time that women
worked on fire crews. I'm wondering if anyone knows the truth about a story that
has been circulating for years. I've heard two versions. Supposedly, one of the
first women firefighters got frustrated about her lack of opportunity to get
into the single shower unit at fire camp. After fuming for several days, she
said, "The h*** with this," and marched into the shower filled with males,
stripped off her clothes and started to clean up. One variation has all the
males running out in various stages of dress and undress. The other variation
has all the guys in camp suddenly lining up to take their shower. Anyone know
the real story?"
A: Women and showers: a friend brought my attention to the posting on
women's showers (above) and someone wanting the "real story" and suggested I
respond, since I was there. In the early/mid seventies we went out for one of
those one day shifts when the supe turns down a helicopter ride out because
"we'd rather walk out" and we knew we were in for it -- what followed was
consecutive, sweltering hot 24 hour shifts of cutting line, hot shoveling, and
cutting line around hot spots, sleeping on the line for days. We finally got
back into fire camp and were beat. Everyone on my assembled crew started taking
showers (the old open-air ones) and told me the Women's Showers were 1-2. (I was
told because this was when most of the men did not want showers). I went at 1.
"Sorry" said the shower manager. Too many guys want showers, the Women's Hours
will be at 2. At 2 I was told it was 4. At 4 it was 5 and on and on. He was
getting a real kick out of this now, since he probably had never been on the
line in his life, but this really wasn't funny on any level anymore, since I
clearly wasn't going to get a shower. I was furious by now and he thought that
was even funnier. I just took my stuff and walked in -- was there ever a
commotion "you can't go in there!" he was yelling in panic from the door,
because now he was in trouble. You could have heard a pin drop in the showers,
believe me, the showers were full, and I was just grim faced, you could have
fried an egg on my head, looking straight ahead and just getting my shower and
getting out of there. Yes, I'm pretty sure some guys fled. But I also appreciate
there were so many guys, both in the shower and who heard about it on the
lightning-fast grapevine in camp, that were simply kind and respectful and just
understood how much it meant to get a hot shower as a firefighter after so long
on a hot assignment and were apologetic I had to make a stink and do that to
make my point. After that there were Women's Hours posted on the shower and they
kept them and that guy disappeared. As years went by it seemed like women in the
showers became some kind of joke or gag -- but back in those days there were a
lot of guys who just didn't think I should have had to do that. Thanks.
Sincerely, An Old Salt (now)
How many scenes was the USFS/NPS Model 60 in during the movie "Always"?
A: The first Model 60 engine that went into service in R5 was delivered
to the San Bernardino NF and served with distinction for over 15 years. It was
the first in engine during the Panorama fire and responded to every major fire
campaign up to and including the '88 Yellowstone fires. After that it was loaned
to Steven Spielberg for the movie "Always" which was filmed on the Kootenai
National Forest. During the opening scene where Richard Dreyfus is gliding his
tanker toward the tanker base after running out of fuel you can hear it
responding code 3 across the tarmac as the plane barely lands in one piece. It
makes an appearance a total of nine times throughout the film. Just look for the
big front chrome bumper. I once saw a publicity photo where Holly Hunter is
sitting in it. The famous engine was transferred to the Park Service shortly
after and was used to start the fire management program at Joshua Tree National
Park. It was in great condition and the old mastery box on the rear pump panel
still worked. I've attached a picture of it parked beside a Model 61 and a Model
62 taken in 1996. (Engines
20 photo page)
Sometimes when we were short staffed, the crew would let me drive it on initial
attack to local fires thus fulfilling my childhood fantasy. Yes I was qualified,
having been the only FMO to graduate from the 1990 South Zone Engine Academy (I
write proudly). Even with the new white paint job with red stripe, many BDF
firefighters would recognize the chrome bumper and share their fond memories
while assigned to it during its illustrious career when it was at the City Creek
and Sycamore stations. Isn't it funny how one can become emotionally attached to
a fire engine? Imagine my surprise when I witnessed it last year being restored
in the engine bay at the Mojave National Preserve Hole-in-the-Wall fire station.
It was like seeing an old friend you thought had died. It still starts on the
first try and idles smoothly. Fire Geek, the Original, 7/20/08 (Berdo first said
it was from the BDF, 7/18/08.)