Trees, FOPS, ROPS and OPS

by James Steele Overhead hazards from fire-weakened and burnt trees are major causes of accidents and fatalities in forest work, and on the fireline. Wildfire also burns out tree boles, weakens tree limbs and damages tree roots. Erratic winds, induced by fire and post-fire wind streams, shake snags and weakened roots of live trees like wiggling a loose tooth. Openings in the forest, such as roads, trails and continuous fuel breaks can channel air flow, accelerating and twisting wind as in a tunnel. Burnt, rattled snags and over-mature trees create a dangerously unstable forest canopy, potentially fatal to forest workers, …

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How do you know if you are choosing the right tool for the wildfire incident task at-hand? Our general practice is to use the most familiar and easily accessible tools. In the wildland fire world, one might say hand tools, engines, dozers and aviation are the most familiar, recognized and accessible tools. Yet, for many reasons that we will consider in time, heavy equipment other than dozers, and used in forest management is often overlooked when ordering incident resources.

Greater consideration for mechanized equipment and tactical approaches is overdue, particularly in light of longer, more costly and deadly wildfire seasons. Regardless of which burn policy is applied, when planning wildfire operations managers benefit from familiarity with the wide variety of available forestry machines. Feller bunchers, skidders, skidgines, excavators with various attachments, wheeled and tracked vehicles; many forestry machines types offer additional fire management options, from prevention and mitigation to suppression and rehab.

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