Too damn bad, the ranger is dead.
March 2, 2018 8:10 PM   Subscribe

“Firefighters lose their self-control and run into the fire instead of away from it. Night and day are often reversed: during a fire daylight is masked by smoke, haze, and ash; but nighttime is lit by firelight. Water is no longer a cooling, nourishing, healthful resource: snowmelt streams are tepid, springs boil, and water sources become undrinkable because of ash content.” A scholarly look at the stories told by and about early Forest Service rangers fighting wildland fire, from the Forest History Society [pdf].

Bonus wildland fire history, about Ed Pulaski, the hero of the first story in the link above:

Stephen Pyne in Year of the Fires (2001) calls [the pulaski] “the supreme fire tool,” noting that it “embedded the legend of 1910 more firmly than any agency stunt, congressional memorial, or recovered memory.” Every time a firefighter reaches for a pulaski, he or she figuratively retells “the story of Big Ed and the Big Blowup, the saga of the Great Fires and the year that tried to contain them”
posted by Grandysaur (2 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The city fireman's equivalent of the Pulaski would be the Halligan bar.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:28 PM on March 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've always thought that wildland fire fighting in a forest like that was just kind of incomprehensible - how do you survive, how do breathe? how do you know where to go to avoid the fire and how do you see over the ridge to see where it is? It just seems like something you need to know so much about to survive. I saw Only the Brave this summer and boy, that did not change my mind. I did learn a lot about fire fighting, it was a good (not amazing but good) movie and a real eye-opener into how close these crews are to the fires and how well their chiefs understand fire behavior and how much trust the young firefighters have in their knowledge.

I can't imagine how these early fire fighters survived at all- they had no one to teach them and the towns were so small with so little cleared area and all made of wood. No ATVs or chainsaws or aerial spotters. I do recall one account from the 1800s Americas that I read years ago where some local tribe members were asked by the newly arrived farmers what they thought the fire would do or how to stop it or something and their response was along the lines of "we just leave till it's done. good luck. laters.". I think I would be very, very onboard with that idea.
posted by fshgrl at 11:21 PM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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