Letter Re: David in Israel on Fire Suppression and Fire Fighting

Greetings JWR,
A few words about the article that David sent you on fire suppression: While I admit my wildland fire fighting experience is limited, as a member of private forest industry we do a lot for fire prevention. My associations with fire run deep. David recommended talking to state and Federal forest entities…look up your local private industry forester. Often these people are happy to give advice and know contacts of people with the equipment and knowledge to do the work at reasonable rates.
First, do not wait to make a clearing around your house…make one around your property. Two of the best fire breaks are roads and clear cuts. The ideal situation is a backhoe or Cat[erpillar tractor] line around your property with no trees (ideally) within 1-1.5 tree lengths of the fire line. As David mentioned, properly thinned forests are key as well. Crowns should have air around them, such that crowns are not touching. Spacing should be increased the drier your property is–dependent on rainfall and aspect (i.e. slope: south, north, etc. facing). It’s wise to research what species are fire resistant in your area and select for them [to remain] when thinning. Fire that is on the ground is fire that can be controlled. So keep the ladder fuels (i.e. smaller trees that lead up to bigger trees) thinned out. Multi-story management is alright as long as spacings are still observed and crowns do not touch crowns.
Roads or skid trails (taken down to bare mineral soil ) in key defensible locations like along ridge lines can be used to your advantage. Remember that roots burn as well, so hack all those bad boys off and clear the trail. During a worst case scenario, a couple people could run along a ridge line and with chain saws dump the trees into the fire side away from the skid trail. This is not necessarily advisable while the fire is at your door step but if there is one burning in your general direction it may be necessary. Fire lines around your property can be easily maintained with a back pack sprayer and Round Up [herbicide]. This also comes in handy since under burns have to be reburned every couple years, depending on vegetation types. Good and well-maintained fire lines keep your fire off your neighbors land as well as their fire off yours. Heavy woody debris or brush can accumulate over periods of 4-5 years before having to be burned. Grass needs burning more frequently. Personal observations of excess vegetation will be required.
Fire can also be fought with fire. While burning your own property, play around in small areas with black lining ( or burning fuel in front of the fire so that it cannot go further ) and learn what works best…i e. heat is drawn to heat et cetera. I burn my grass field every spring as soon as the grass will hold a flame and try something different every time I can, just to learn and see what will work best.
It might be handy to invest in a diesel drip torch [“dribbler.”] I’ve found that this is the best tool for managing under burns–it is easy to use… walk along [with the tip held out to the side of your path] and drip. It does all the work. Forestry suppliers will carry this item.

Regarding Boots: I spend A LOT of money on boots as they are vital to my livelihood. “Whites” are no longer “the best” in my experience and opinion. “Nicks” (located in Spokane, Washington) is a smaller company started by an ex-Whites employee who wanted to make boots the way “Whites” used to make boots. A new pair starts at about $375.00. As long as the uppers stay sound you can have them rebuilt for about one hundred seventy-five bucks, usually a 3-4 month wait for them, so order early. Vibram soles for fire, but for everyday woods stomping I like calked (“corked”) boots, unless, of course, there is a lot of rock in an area. Expect to rebuild them every 1-2 years with HEAVY use. On any boot designed like the “Whites: Smoke Jumper” the spot that I’ve found will wear and crack first, is the instep by the arch support–design makes it difficult to grease this area and keep it supple. I recommend Obernaufs…it is good for greasing your boots. I like to bake it in- then I take a bees wax ring (the ones used for toilets) and smear that over the top and bake ’em little more. Be careful, however, the wax is a drying agent (I have cracked leather using pure wax.) Be sure and use your grease first, before applying the wax. Laces are also a problem— Leather with the heavy wet dry action, tend break a lot. Most of the fiber ones seem to fray and are pricey as well. I have started using parachute cord as a cheap alternative…seems to work great. Thanks much – E.B. of N. Idaho