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The Nature Conservancy is a leader in the use of controlled burns to restore lands for people, water and wildlife, while reducing the risk of dangerous megafires.

Learn more about our Adopt a Fireworker program and the essential fabrics, tools and gear our fire teams need to stay safe while conducting controlled burns.

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Drip Torch

The drip torch, as its name suggests, literally drips fire. Made of lightweight aluminum or stainless steel, this commonly used hand-held device allows fireworkers to drip a flaming mixture of gas and diesel onto underbrush and surface vegetation, thereby controlling the placement and intensity of the fire.

When extinguishing the device, fireworkers can easily — yet carefully — grasp the burning wick with a gloved hand until the flame dies from lack of oxygen. The portability and ease of use make the drip torch especially handy when conducting controlled burns in small areas.

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Water Supply

Whether controlling the edges of a controlled burn or extinguishing a fire completely, fireworkers need an adequate supply of water. And they often need to transport the water over rugged terrain.

Bladder bags — specialty backpacks with hand pumps and the capacity to hold several gallons of water — are common gear for fireworkers who need a readily accessible water supply.

For hard to reach areas, lightweight plastic and fiberglass water tanks are routinely mounted to ATVs and trucks for easy maneuverability and off-road use.

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Emergency Fire Shelter

An emergency fire shelter is mandatory equipment for Conservancy and U.S. federal agency fireworkers. Required since 1977, shelters have been credited with saving lives and preventing injuries.

The New Generation Fire Shelter, the required version for Nature Conservancy fireworkers since 2010, offers improved protection by reflecting radiant heat and absorbing convective heat.

Fireworkers are trained to only use shelters as a last resort when planned escape routes and safety zones are not accessible and entrapment is imminent.

Due to its fragile construction, even an unused fire shelter must be replaced periodically.

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Hoses and Nozzles

Fireworkers must be alert and ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice. The weather can change. Or an unexpected event may require fireworkers to extinguish or redirect flames.

Dependable hoses and nozzles are crucial fire control tools. Always within reach, reinforced rubber hoses are usually at least 50 feet in length and designed to accommodate high levels of water pressure.

Fireworkers can adjust the nozzles for water volume and function: stream, straight, spray or fog.

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Kestrel

Fireworkers plan controlled burns around the most optimal weather conditions. Weather is perhaps the greatest factor influencing fire and smoke behavior, fuel flammability and the ability to contain a fire, which is why a Kestrel Pocket Weather Meter is a must-have accessory.

This hand-held device is used to measure temperature, relative humidity, dew point and wind speed.

The Kestrel and other devices — such as a compass and the sling psychrometer, which is used to measure relative humidity — help fireworkers ensure the success and safety of a controlled burn.

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Flapper

Fireworkers are vigilant about containing controlled burns within the designated area. Long-handled flappers, or swatters, are often used to swat out small fires or smother burning embers near the edges of the firebreaks by removing the oxygen supply.

Designed to stop or slow the fire, firebreaks can be a pre-existing feature like a road or river. Or fireworkers can create a break in the flammable vegetation or debris by exposing mineral soil.

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Hard Hat

Falling limbs. Wayward debris. Radiant heat. There are many potential hazards involved in preparing for and conducting a controlled burn, which is why fireworkers must dress for safety.

Made of lightweight, fire-resistant material, a hard hat with a front brim is mandatory headwear for all fireworkers.

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Shirt, Pants

Dress for success — and safety. Fireworkers are typically seen sporting a bright yellow shirt and dark green pants made of Nomex® fiber, a flame-resistant material that absorbs heat and resists burning and melting.

T-shirts and other underclothes are made of either cotton or wool, but never synthetic fibers, which can melt and cause burn injuries.

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Gloves, Boots, Goggles

The physicality of conducting controlled burns can take its toll. Fireworkers need to protect their extremities with leather gloves and leather work boots with skid and heat resistant soles.

Flexible yet tough and durable, leather is a good insulator, protecting against heat and embers. Steel-toed boots are a fashion don’t, however, as they can heat up fast when near fire.

Fireworkers must also don lightweight, fire-resistant goggles or safety glasses to protect their eyes from smoke and ash.

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Two-way Radios

The area of a controlled burn can range in size from a small field to a large forest, which makes it essential for fireworkers to be able to talk to each other at all times.

Portable 2-way radios, often strapped to workers’ chests for hands-free access, are crucial communication devices. Fireworkers usually designate different channels for different functions (e.g., command, ground-to-air communications, etc.).

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Hoe

Fireworkers are skilled in controlling the movement of a fire and the range of the controlled burn. To do so, they regularly use hand tools to create firebreaks — literal breaks in flammable vegetation, brush, branches and forest litter.

Using hoes, shovels, axes and other tools, fireworkers cut, scrape or dig away sod, roots and other combustible materials to expose the mineral soil, which helps slow or stop the fire.

When possible, pre-existing firebreaks such as roads and rivers are used to keep flames within the burn area.

Drip Torch

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Water Supply

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Emergency Fire Shelter

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Hoses and Nozzles

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Kestrel

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Flapper

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Hard Hat

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Shirts, Pants

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Gloves, Boots, Goggles

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Two-way Radios

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Hoe

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