Fire Crew Duties

All fire crew members should dress appropriately. Wear gloves, cotton clothes, boots, and a hat. Drink plenty of water. Be sure you have access to water at all times. Don’t forget a pair of wire cutters, in case you have to go through a fence, if the fire gets out of the burn area. This is a demanding job and the crew member should be in good physical shape.

Drip Torch Crew – Responsible for igniting the fuel for a prescribed burn. You should know how the drip torch operates, how to regulate the flow of fuel, mix to proper ratio of gas and diesel, refuel, and how to handle the drip torch safely. Be very deliberate in positioning the drip torch, avoid swing the torch and blow out the torch as soon as you have completed your task.Also, be aware of your surroundings. Watch for limbs, rocks, or other things that could trip you up.Be aware of the location of other crew members, so that you do not endanger them. Maintain the proper distance and speed, as directed by the Burn Boss, and do not pass the lead drip torch, if you are igniting a strip headfire. This is the hottest job of the fire crew, so be sure to drink plenty of water.

Weather Reporter – The Burn Boss will direct the weather reporter to an area close to the burn area, but in a location that will not be affected by the conditions of the burn. The weather person should be sure that all instruments are in working order. If possible, be in contact with someone with access to the fire weather web site in case of any changes since the last forecast. Begin taking weather observations as soon as your arrive at the burn area for either the blacklines or the actual burn. Maintain the weather record book for the burn. Record all weather observations and relay all observations to the Burn Boss. Keep the Burn Boss aware of any changes since the last observation such as a change in wind direction, speed, or relative humidity.

Steps in reading a psychrometer

  • Stand in shade or use your body for shade
  • Face wind to avoid body heat
  • Saturate wick on wet bulb with clean water
  • Ventilate by whirling at full arm’s length at 30 second intervals until wet bulb reaches lowest temperature
  • Read wet and dry bulb
  • Determine RJ from tables or slide rule

Steps in using the wind meter

  • Face the wind and hold at arm’s length
  • Observe ball to determine low/high scale
  • Average speed over 1 min. interval

Fire Suppression Crew – The Fire Suppression Crew is responsible for patrolling the perimeter of the prescribed burn and reacting, as quickly as possible, to any fire that may start outside of the prescription area. If you are on an ATV, you should be constantly circling the prescription area, looking outside the area for any spot fires that may develop. Quick reaction to spot fires with a 4-wheeler can stop the potential for a large outbreak. Call the Burn Boss as soon as you notice a spot fire, so the Burn Boss can send other fire suppression crews, as needed.

A pumper, consisting of a driver and spray operator, is used to suppress any spot fires that may occur. Be aware of your position, and the position of other crews, as visibility in the area may be limited. Keep all vehicles in the black area, if possible, approaching the fire line from the back side.

Whether you are driving a pumper or an ATV, with a spray rig on back, it is important that you understand how to start, use, refill, and field repair the unit. Be sure you understand the plumbing of the nozzle and the starting sequence of the engine. If you don’t know, ask!

Be sure you have plenty of gas and oil for the vehicles and pump engines.

Other personnel – Additional personnel, not immediately assigned, are kept in reserve to relieve drip torch and fire suppression crew members, as needed. Having someone asigned to patrol the entire area, providing extra drinking water and snacks, can be very important. Other personnel may also be assigned hand equipment, such as rakes, shovels, flappers, or backpack sprayers. Hand equipment can be very effective for removing large fuels, such as logs or limbs, from the perimeter of the burn.