What exactly is a Forestry Crew?
A forest fire crew is a unit of volunteers who are called upon by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry to assist in the battle against wildfire. The forestry crew is overseen by a Forest Fire Warden and special Assistant Forest Fire Warden. The crew is equipped with a number of tools to aid them in this work. these tools include the Sanvik brush knife, brush hook, pulaski, fire rake, shovel, fire broom, chain saw, drip torch, and backpack tank. The standard method of fighting wildfire is to remove all unburned fuel between you and the fire. This is done by constructing a control line around the fire. This control line may be made in a number of ways. It can be accomplished through water / retardant drops from air tankers and helicopters, wetting down the fuels by applying water or foam from tanker / pump units, use of heavy equipment to rapidly carve a wide swath through the forest, but the most used method is the forest fire crew often called the ground pounder. The other methods of constructing a control line are limited by factors such as terrain, forest density, weather, and in the case of aircraft, even the time of year. The forest fire crew, though slowed in progress, is not limited by these factors.
The forest fire crew constructs a control line, by hand, making a barrier around the fire to check its growth. Construction of a control line should always begin on a safe anchor point such as a road, power line, lake, stream, or rock slide or any other natural or man made structure which provides a hard stop against fire. The crew is led by the Trail Blazer who clears the initial path for the control line. He uses a Sanvik brush knife or brush hook to clear small underbrush and low hanging tree branches. He is followed by a team of rake men who use fire rakes to remove the surface fuels down to mineral soil. There are normally 10 or more rake men on a crew. The most common method used by the rake men is the One Lick. In this method each rake man takes on one lick with his rake and then moves on. Each rake man behind him does the same making the line deeper and wider as they go. They are followed by a sweeper who uses a fire broom to remove any excess leaves, twigs, and other small fuels from the line and from around trees near the line. Following this, the torch man "burns out" the fuels which lie between the control line and the fire. He is followed by one or more crewmen with backpack tanks who are charged with controlling the burn-out. In this way, a control line can be constructed in nearly any place at any time.
The South Ward Fire Co. has had an organized forestry crew since 1990. In 1999 the fire company had one of its members (Mark Bower) appointed as a state forest fire warden. The official name of the forestry crew is South Ward Fire Company Forest Fire Crew of Tamaqua. The forestry crew is under the command of DCNR Bureau of Forestry Weiser Forest Fire District 18. District 18 covers the following counties: Schuylkill, Carbon, Lebanon, Dauphin, Northumberland, Montour and Columbia. The forestry crew has 30 active (male & female) trained volunteers and we are always seeking energetic individuals who love the outdoors.
Sign at Weiser Forest District 18 in Penn Forest Fire Control Station
Fire danger signs that are scene throughout District 18
Fire chopper based at Penn Forest helipad