Basic Forest Fire Suppression Course - Online Lessons


There are a variety of tools used in all stages of fire suppression from initial attack to mop up. This lesson will cover the four most common pieces of equipment a crew in Nova Scotia will be expected to use :

The Shovel, Pulaski, The Back Tank and Wajax Fire Pump

4.1 The Shovel

The shovel is used by itself or in conjunction with other suppression equipment such as back tanks, and hose line. As a suppression tool, the shovel can be used for:

Cutting small branches and brush with the sharpened edge or cutting through small roots when digging in ground fuels.

Digging a trench to create a fuel break in an indirect attack or digging out smudges in a mop up operation.

Scraping to separate burning and unburned fuel in a direct attack. Scraping surface fuels such as moss or duff from bedrock or removing a shallow layer of needles to expose mineral soil. Scraping hot coals or embers from burning fuels during mop up.

The shovel is also used to expose deep burning embers so that water can be applied from the back tank or hose line. If water is not available, the shovel can be used to extinguish the exposed embers by mixing them with mineral soil.

Throwing mineral soil directly on the fire to reduce heat or smother the flames.

The shovel does have limitations. Fire intensity may not allow crew members to work close enough to throw mineral soil on the fire. The effective range for throwing mineral soil with a shovel is approximately five meters.

The shovel is quite limited as a suppression tool in deep duff layers with large roots or in mineral soil with a rocky or clay composition. The shovel is most efficient in sandy soils.

The shovel handle must be smooth, free of splinters and cracks and should be securely fastened to the blade. The blade must be sharpened at a 30 to 40 degree angle for a distance of 5 cm up each side.

File with the blade facing up and stroke the file towards the blade’s edge. The blade is rust proofed with oil and protected with duct tape. Shovels intended for fire suppression duties should never be used for general maintenance work.

A shovel must be carried horizontally, at the side, below waist level, with the curved inner surface facing down and away from the body. In the event of a fall, the crew member can push the shovel away from the body. Never carry a shovel over your shoulder.

Any shovel left on the fireline should be in a vertical position embedded in the soil or leaning against a tree. This makes them easier to locate and reduces the risk of injury to fireline personnel.