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

11 IMTeams and 22 crews working on hurricane recovery

At least 11 Incident Management Teams and 22 hand crews are assigned in the eastern United States helping with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. The numbers provided by various sources vary somewhat, and may be due to some of the resources not being dispatched through the National Interagency Coordination Center, such as an IMTeam from Maine that does not show up on the list below which is from the the Eastern Area Coordination Center. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Hurricane Sandy, IMTeams assigned, 11-3-2012

The crews are working in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

The Missoulian has an article about more crews headed that way today.

If you have photos of these firefighters in action, send them to us through our Contact Us page. Please include a brief description of the photo, the location, and the date. You can send one photo with each message; if you have lots of photos, send us a message through the Contact page and we’ll give you our email address.

Hurricane Sandy, firefighting resources update, November 1, 2012

The primary mission of these firefighters is debris removal and road clearance for electrical power personnel.

Hurricane Sandy Firefighting Resources Committed as of November 1, 2012 at 0600.


  • Incident Management Team Type 2 (Grant)
  • Two Type 2IA Crews (MI & MN)

New York

  • Three Type 2 Crews
  • Two Type 1 Interagency Hotshot Crews (Cherokee short IHC, and Augusta short IHC)
  • Five 2 person Saw Crews
  • Two Incident Management Team Type 2: (Pisarek) operating at East Farmingdale, and the Maine IMTeam (IC Jeff Currier) operating in Brooklyn.
  • NIMO (National Incident Management Organization) (Quesenberry) assigned to support Nassau County NY.
  • NIMO (Kleinman) assigned to NYC Mob Center in route
  • NIMO (Hahnenberg) assigned to NY State Coordination Center in route

Massachusetts: Fort Devens

  • Incident Management Team Type 2 (Kollmeyer)

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg

  • Incident Management Team Type 1 (Wilder)
  • Two Type 2 crews
  • Five IHC Crews (Fulton, Breckenridge, Los Padres, Palomar, Laguna) arriving 11/1/12

West Virginia: Charleston

  • Type 2 IA Crew

It is interesting that none of the Incident Commanders listed on the web site for the four NIMO teams are participating in this incident. At least one of them, Steve Gage, has moved to another job. There is no way to tell when the web site was last updated. We are checking on this and will have more information later about the NIMO teams.

HERE is a link to a five-minute podcast Jennifer Jones, a Public Affairs Specialist with the USFS in Boise did yesterday with Steve Gage, the new Assistant Director for Operations with the USFS at NIFC, about using IMTeams and fire crews to help with hurricanes and other non-fire emergencies.

Fire in Connecticut

You don’t often hear about wildland fires in Connecticut, and you would not have heard about this one-acre fire near Wilton, except the report I saw included a photo of a fire boat. OK, most people would not call this a boat…. it’s an amphibious ATV outfitted with a pump and hose.

These amphibious ATVs can be useful for suppressing fires in cattails. Cattails grow in water, and when they are cured out, burn like brush. It’s next to impossible to stop a cattail fire when it’s moving above the water… unless you can get out ahead of it with a boat or ATV like this and drive back and forth knocking down the cattails so they are mostly underwater. Cattails don’t spot very often, so a fairly narrow line can stop the fire.

The tricky part is being out in front of a fast-moving fire in a boat, pushing through cattails and hoping the motor does not stall or you get stuck.