Monthly Archives: September 2017
In a state know for wildfires, this one was off the charts. It caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. It was responsible for millions in property damage. It threatened entire cities. It endangered over 6,000 firefighters.
The fire was first spotted on a Wednesday in a forest south of Prescott, Arizona. Strong winds and dry terrain stoked the blaze as firefighters and forest crews sprang into action. The fire raged and within days it consumed 1,000 acres spreading to within three miles of downtown Prescott. Over 1,500 residents evacuated as the fire waged war on southern Arizona.
Meanwhile in eastern Arizona another wildfire rose up in Show Low. It roared across a 330,000 acre area. As firefighters and forest workers battled the blaze, their worst fear seemed unavoidable. The two separate wildfires were heading toward each other and within eight days, they merged into one fearsome conflagration of flame, ash and smoke.
Devastation reigned. The American Red Cross provided food and shelter to displaced residents. The President came to witness the destruction and the federal government designated the site a disaster area as firefighters battled the blaze. More voracious than ever, the fire continued its rampage of destruction.
Cooler weather and the firebreaks eventually began to have an effect. Five weeks after it began, the wildfire was starting to be contained. But the toll was sobering. This fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history, decimated 517 square miles, an area larger than Los Angeles. It reduced 423 homes to ash and cinder. It caused 30,000 evacuations.
Whether in a forest, at work or even in your own home, the power and fury of fire can destroy in minutes what took months or years to build. Your best plan is to fight back with prevention.
*Dispose of trash, flammable fluids, oily rags and other waste properly.
*Handle extension cords and electrical equipment with care.
*Remove frayed cords, replace damaged plugs and don’t overload electrical circuits.
*Smoke only in designated areas, and make sure cigarettes, etc., are completely extinguished.
*Know where fire extinguishers are located and how to use them.
EXTINGUISH THE CAUSES OF FIRE
*Copyright 2002 Harkins Safety B157
Like the lighthouse operator and long-distance runner, the fire watcher is surrounded in romance and lore. These solitary figures spend hour after hour, day after day, month after month perched high atop our nation’s forests searching for any sign of impending forest fire. How did the job of fire watcher begin? Here’s the story.
The first fire lookout was built in 1876 by the Southern Pacific Railroad on Red Mountain near Donner Summit to watch for train fires. Then in 1905, the U.S. Forest Service adopted the idea. They followed the example of the railroad and began using fire watchers to create an organized fire prevention and detection system.
The Forest Service built a network of forest fire lookout stations across the U.S. At first, the stations were little more than campsites. The fire watcher would ride there on horseback, make his observations and travel to the next site. Later, crow’s-nest platforms were built atop the highest trees. The fire watcher would stand vigil, sometimes for hours or days at a time. If a fire was spotted, the fire watcher often became a firefighter, jumping on his horse or hiking to the fire to help put it out. By 1914 the job of fire watcher was more defined and these solitary workers spent their days in live-in cabins built on top of huge towers.
In the 1930’s during the Great Depression, government programs to put people back to work included the Civilian Conservation Corps. With the help of the CCC, fire watch towers began springing up across the county; over 8,000 towers were built and staffed by full-time fire watchers.
During World War II, the fire watchers’ keen observation skills were used to look out for enemy aircraft. The fire watchers staffed aircraft observation decks 365 days a year until the war ended.
Although many fire watchers were phased out in the 1970s in favor of airplane observation, we need to stay vigilant when it comes to fire prevention. Being a fire watcher is just as important today as it was many years ago.
*Look for ways to prevent electrical fires. Check for frayed wires and replace them. Always use the correct fuses, check ground wires and keep combustibles away from machines.
*Look for ways to avoid chemical fires. Always read MSDS’s, SDS’s and labels, keep flammable liquids away from ignition sources, check compressed gas cylinders for leaks and always store cylinders securely. Practice welding only in areas with fire-resistant floors.
*Look for ways to keep your work area safe. Keep machines free of dust and grease. Dispose of combustibles like oily rags properly. Keep walkways, stairs and fire doors free of debris.
GET FIRED UP ABOUT FIRE SAFETY
*Copyright 2005 Harkins Safety B204