The Oregon Wildland/Urban Human Fire Interface


How Fire Works

Wildlife-Wildfire Interface

Oregon's Vulnerability

Biscuit Fire

Urban-Wildfire Interface

Firefighting Techniques




Firefighting Techniques


  Once a fire is discovered in the wild, fire captains are notified and decide what type of crews and equipment to send out to fight the fire.  They make this decision based on terrain, vegetation, location, and soil type.  It helps if there are natural barriers to stop the fire, such as a river, or unnatural barriers, such as a road.  Certain types of equipment cannot operate in certain areas.  For instance- a bulldozer cannot go up a steep slope of a mountain to clear out a bunch of brush.  A fire captainís job is important.  If a piece of equipment or a wrong type of crew is sent out, the fire may spread and flare out of control.

A crown fire, north of Sula, Montana



Types of preventative techniques

  • Hot Shot Crews

  • Helicopters

  • Thinning

  • Prescribed Fires

  • Pruning

  • Mowing


Hot Shot Crews

  Hot Shot Crews prevent fire from spreading by removing fuel and laying down water.  They remove fuel by prescribed burning and line construction.  Prescribed burning is setting a fire to an area to burn out the fuel (vegetation) before a fire reaches the area.  It is a controlled fire and is only meant to burn out the smaller trees and brush so that the fire cannot migrate upwards to cause crown fires.  Line construction is the major prevention technique that hot shot crews do.  A line is basically cut out of the forests, in a perimeter around the fire so that when the fire reaches the line, there is no fuel to burn and it burns out.  Lines are constructed by using chain saws (used to cut down the trees), pulaskis (a type of axe to pull out stumps), rhinos (a bent shovel to remove brush and turn over soil), and a broom (to sweep up anything left behind). 

click picture to view larger image


         Chain Saws                        A Pulaski                           A Rhino                           A Broom          

  The person/persons with the brooms have the most important job because they have to make sure that all of the brush is clear and that every one ahead of them did their jobs correctly.  After the line is constructed hot shot crews sometimes spray water on it.



  Helicopters are also used to prevent fires from spreading.  The helitorch is a helicopter with, basically, a flame thrower attached to it.  It flies over areas and starts fires to remove vegetation.  Helitorches are used to remove a lot of fuel in a short amount of time.  Helicopters are also used to dump water on fires, or to lay a retardant on the trees to prevent fires from spreading.


                    A helitorch starting a fire                             A helicopter laying retardant on a forest

Source:  &



  Thinning is a process used to remove small, weaker trees and decrease the concentration of trees in a certain area so that flames cannot jump from tree to tree.  The stronger and older trees can withstand the fires easier because they have thicker bark.


                               Thinning                                                        A thinned forest



  Pruning is a method that is used to prevent fires from migrating towards the crowns of trees.  Lower branches of the trees are cut off so that the fire has nothing to catch onto to progress upwards.  Pruning can and should be done around all homes and populated areas that are at risk of fires.


A man Pruning a tree



  Mowing is a way to clear out a lot of brush quickly.  Big machines, such as bulldozers, are brought in to clear out the brush.  These vehicles cannot operate on certain terrain, though, so it is very important that the fire captains analyze the situation before the fire arrives so that the proper techniques can be instigated.





  Fire fighting is a dangerous job and an important one.  Fire fighters and other individuals use these techniques to help stop the fires from progressing and reoccurring.  In 1998, the U.S. spent $1 billion on fire fighting practices.  It is a costly effort that not only takes money, but also lives.  33 lives have been lost in efforts to stop wildfires in the U.S.


Other pictured sources


chain saws:
A pulaski:
A broom:
Thinning, a thinned forest, a man pruning a tree: Fitzgerald, Stephen A., Fire in Oregon's Forests: Risks, Effects, and Treatment Options, Extension Forestry Program Oregon State University