FIRE: Training Material For Wildland Firefighters 70 Years Ago

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Forest Fire Fighting Fundamentals, title page

John Hawkins, retired CAL FIRE Unit Chief and County Fire Chief, sent us a .pdf copy of the publication, Forest Fire Fighting Fundamentals, which I had not seen in many years. It could have been part of basic training for wildland firefighters. The publication was written by the US Forest Service, then California Department of Forestry (CDF).

I’m not sure when the 58-page document was first published. As you can see above, it was received on the Medicine Bow National Forest in 1953. The National Museum of Forest Service History says it was published around 1945 (“1945 ca.”), but I wonder if there were multiple editions throughout a couple of decades.

Forest Fire Fighting Fundamentals, p. 23

There are many hand-drawn illustrations, many of which are attention-grabbing or funny, which may have made it easier to retain the lesson being taught.

Forest Fire Fighting Fundamentals, p. 32

There are no chain saws or air tankers, but you will see a dozer and a very early model helicopter. It mentions that only physically fit men can fight fire.

Forest Fire Fighting Fundamentals, p. 40

It mentions aggressive initial attack, saying that when using direct attack, “You either ‘hit the head’ (point of most rapid spread) or start at the rear and work forward on both sides (flanks) at the fire edge and thus pinch out and control the head.”

Forest Fire Fighting Fundamentals, illustration on page 39

It is very out of date in many respects, but the physics of fire and general principles of fire suppression and firefighter safety remain basically the same. It has been a while since I looked at what rookies are shown in basic firefighter training, S-130/190, but it would not hurt to let them peruse this document to help reinforce some fundamentals.

You can download the 2.3 MB document.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. View all posts by Bill Gabbert

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