New training video for handline construction


The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Middlesex Community College have recently completed a new training video designed to assist local fire departments when training their personnel in the construction of handline, or fireline. The 10-minute video is titled “Handline Construction for Forest Fire Control”.

It is geared toward fireline construction in eastern vegetation, but the principles apply in other areas as well. It was funded by the U.S. Forest Service with the understanding that it could be used in other states.

The film is skillfully written and produced and should be helpful when training new firefighters.

In one section the narrator mentions that when initial attacking a fire you should walk around it to size it up, but wisely adds, “If the fire is rapidly moving, don’t go around the head.”

The video is unique in that it shows firefighters working adjacent to an actual fire, which may be a prescribed fire, but it has flames, nonetheless.

A very long time ago I and several other firefighters on the Cleveland National Forest demonstrated in a training film the use of hand tools to construct fireline in southern California brush. It was titled “Hand Tools for Wildfire” and has no doubt disappeared from shelves in training rooms, thankfully. My role in the film was to demonstrate a “golf swing” while using a brush hook, a technique in which you swing the hook like golf club and impact the target on the way up, after you would have hit the golf ball…if you were using a brush hook to play golf. Most firefighters today probably don’t know what a brush hook is. Even back then hooks were being replaced by chain saws. When I ran a saw on the El Cariso Hothshots, it was a Homelite Super XL.

Brush Hook

Brush Hook

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

8 thoughts on “New training video for handline construction

  1. I was a crewman with Los Angeles Co. FD in the late 60’s where we used hooks. It was just before the introduction of chainsaws to replace the hooks during line construction. Still have a brush hook hanging in the garage. Many of my ff friends from later year crews see it as an oddity.

  2. Kept a brush hook on trucks I ran, including structural ones. Not used much but handy every once in a while. Leaf blowers have there place but used too close to active fire can sometimes kick up a lot of embers sometimes in the wrong direction.

  3. Great training video for VFDs. I’ll be showing it tonight as part of a structural training fire academy.

  4. We still have ‘em on our trucks and UTV’s down here in Florida….very handy when brush is too thick for a council rake and yet not thick enough for a chainsaw…

    • Yes, Jim. Except in the photo, the guard in front of the handle on the top is not stock. That was added by someone many years after the Super XL was introduced.

      • This was my Dad’s saw. He probably bought it in the early to mid 70s. I used it once several years ago. It growls compared to a modern screamer but cut fine with a sharp chain.

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