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A pulaski is a hand tool with an axe on one side and a 4 to 5 inch wide scraping tool on the other. It is used, along with the hazel hoe, shovel, mccloud and chainsaw to dig wildfire line.

When fighting a wildfire, a fire line must be cleared and dug to stop the spread of the flames. The width of the line is determined by the flame length of the fire being fought. Generally firefighters with chainsaws go first, clearing away the large vegetation and brush. Each sawyer or chainsaw operator has a swamper with them to throw the brush to the outside of the fireline. Next comes the lead pulaski or lead hook as this firefighter is commonly called. This person breaks the soil surface, chops away remaining vegetation and moves on. Then come more pulaskis, shovels and other scraping tools.

A typical fire crew consists of twenty men and women. A standard breakdown of tool distribution would be:

  • 1 crew boss
  • 2 sawyers
  • 2 swampers
  • 7 pulaskis
  • 6 shovels
  • 2 mcclouds

At the turn of the last century, the job of the forest ranger was still relatively rugged. Without effective means of traveling the backcountry other than by horse or on foot, the amount of equipment carried was an issue near and dear to the rangers' hearts and crucial to their survival. To fight the brush fires that these intrepid souls often encountered one needed an axe, a mattock and a shovel, at bare minimum. This is rather a load to carry in the best of circumstances, let alone when battling a growing conflagration. One ranger who worked in Idaho (around Wallace) decided to lighten his load by welding the a blade from a mattock to the back of a single bladed axe. His name was Edward Pulaski, and it was thus that the tool, widely known and wielded by foresters and forest fire fighters everywhere, gained its name.

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