Long before airtankers, firefighting had the Pulaski

Posted: Updated:
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

It's fire season in Arizona and the TV coverage is everywhere: fire engines zipping by, helicopters scooping up water and huge airtankers dropping massive loads of fire retardant.

But long before these crucial firefighting tools were on your TV screen, a simple idea was born that has helped saved countless lives, homes and forests.

wiki creative commons

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here for picture of a Pulaski]

It's called the Pulaski: part ax and part hoe. You can chop with it, you can dig with it.

The Pulaski tool is used by hotshot crews (and others) working deep in the fire clearing brush and digging fire breaks in the dirt. The idea is to rob the blaze of fuel with this tool and put a barrier between the fire, homes and other assets.

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here for picture of fire crews]

The idea of this multipurpose ax for firefighting was invented in the early 1900s, according to the U.S. Forest Service, by a man who was somewhat of a legend.

Edward Pulaski worked for the Forest Service and was on The Great Fire of 1910, aka The Big Burn. That fire burned more than 3 million acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana!

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here for picture of Edward Pulaski ]

Legend has it Pulaski and his men were trapped on The Big Burn when he ordered them to hide in an abandoned mine shaft. He was so certain they would die he threatened to shoot anyone who left the crowded space.

After being injured in that fire, Pulaski took some time to refine firefighting tools into something that would later be known as the Pulaski.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Wildfires]  

It's crazy to think even with all of the technology used to fight fires today, a simple tool invented more than 100 years ago is still on the front lines of just about every wildfire burning in America.

Thank you, Ed Pulaski, for your heroism and ingenuity!

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here for picture of firefighters with Pulaskis]

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Arizona's Family Weather BlogMore>>

  • Off the beaten path: Forrest Gump Point

    Off the beaten path: Forrest Gump Point

    Wednesday, July 18 2018 4:20 PM EDT2018-07-18 20:20:46 GMT
    (Sources: 3TV/CBS 5 and Paramount Pictures)(Sources: 3TV/CBS 5 and Paramount Pictures)
    (Sources: 3TV/CBS 5 and Paramount Pictures)(Sources: 3TV/CBS 5 and Paramount Pictures)

    People come from all over the world to see Arizona's Monument Valley. But there's one view, in particular, that has people parking on the side of the road and then dodging traffic to take a certain picture.

    More >

    People come from all over the world to see Arizona's Monument Valley. But there's one view, in particular, that has people parking on the side of the road and then dodging traffic to take a certain picture.

    More >
  • Earliest mention of monsoon in Arizona

    Earliest mention of monsoon in Arizona

    Wednesday, July 11 2018 9:29 AM EDT2018-07-11 13:29:04 GMT
    The Arizona monsoon probably got its name back in the late 40s. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)The Arizona monsoon probably got its name back in the late 40s. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    The first mention of the monsoon in Arizona occurred in the 1940s.

    More >

    The first mention of the monsoon in Arizona occurred in the 1940s.

    More >
  • Fourth of July ushers in weather pattern change

    Fourth of July ushers in weather pattern change

    Tuesday, July 3 2018 2:55 PM EDT2018-07-03 18:55:53 GMT

    The Fourth of July is typically a hot and dry holiday in Arizona.  And while that will be the case this year, a big weather change is headed our way later this week. 

    More >

    The Fourth of July is typically a hot and dry holiday in Arizona.  And while that will be the case this year, a big weather change is headed our way later this week. 

    More >