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tv   Reel America Initial Attack - Fire - 1979  CSPAN  October 4, 2020 4:00pm-4:19pm EDT

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anybody else's that about the loss of someone else's child. >> watch the full debate this sunday here on american history tv. the nationalto interagency fire center, between january and the end of september, 44,000 wildfires have earned over 7 million acres nationally. of next on railamerica, four archival films about wildfires. first, initial attack. a 1970 nine california forestry department showing why the state is vulnerable to wildfires and how they fight them. the fires0 minutes, of 1910. a series of wildfires in idaho and montana that earned 3 million acres in two days and killed 75 filed fires. forestsmoky, a short
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service film telling the story of smokey the bear. in an hour from 1949, your fire department documents firefighting in the los angeles area. >> continued hot weather tomorrow with the possibility of thunderstorms tonight. topping the news today. >> some cloud build up and lightning activity. [thunder crashing] ♪ >> with winds from the northeast expected to reach 30 to 40 miles per hour in southern california -- ♪
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narrator: california's summer and fall months are traditionally a time for vacations, time for traveling and camping in the great outdoors. a time to seek quiet shade on a mountainside. and a time for fires. the area is teeming with people, cooking, smoking. and some even working. ground vegetation has been dehydrated by weeks of hot sun with little or no rainfall. inevitably, there will be fires. some caused by natural phenomena such as lightning strikes, but most caused by
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human beings. california's fire protection problems are unique among the 50 states and probably among the worst in the world. it is the most populous state in the union, with a network of freeways and secondary roads affording access to most wildland areas. it has the widest variety of topography. nearly any terrain in the world runs the -- in the world from the himalayas to the sierras can be duplicated in california in some season of the year. heavy winter rain and spring snow melt foster the growth of ground cover, and then abruptly, months of much sunshine and little moisture. vegetation dries to the consistency of gunpowder and the fire season is upon us. the hazard is further augmented,
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usually in september, by strong, drying winds. the problem is especially acute in southern california, where the santa anas blast in in three -- blast in from the northeast in three or four day cycles and velocity can reach up to 70 miles per hour. any spark is a potential holocaust. small wonder that wildland protection agencies statewide respond more than 40,000 alarms per year. fortunately, few of this number grow to more than 10 acres. that they do not is due to a coordinated system of detection and communication among fire agencies, providing fast initial attack ground or air forces, or both when required. wildland fire protection in california is -- by the california department of for street and the u.s. forest service.
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additionally, reciprocal or mutual aid agreements are in effect with nearly all city and county fire departments. the objective is for the necessary men and equipment to be on hand whenever and wherever needed. initial attack forces may vary widely from one crew to several engines, bulldozers and air tankers. this is probably initial attack in its most basic form. one man with one pump. fireman was-- the en route somewhere on business when he spotted the fire in its first stage and took prompt and effective action. if he had judged the fire beyond his capabilities, he would have reported it and more forces would have been underway. fire reports reach the
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dispatcher in the emergency command center from any number of sources, often from private citizens living in or traveling through an area adjacent to the fire's origin. both the u.s. forest service and tdf maintain lookout towers on the high points throughout the state. these are manned dawn until dark during the critical fire season. patrolling aircraft are often used in high fire risk areas, particularly where there has been a history of incendiaries him or where there has been recent lightning activity. the concept of initial attack is the dispatch of a preplanned level of forces necessary to contain a fire without significant increase in the first two hours. and were full control is expected by 10:00 a.m. the following day.
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-- and where control is expected by 10:00 a.m. the following day. the dispatcher receiving the initial report has valuable assistance in determining the extent of the attack force with his file of response cards. this is a system of in-depth information catalogued through years of experience with fire control for any given area. within seconds after pinpointing the location of the reported fire, the dispatcher pulls the proper card and knows immediately what forces to dispatch. there are of course numerous variables in any fire situation, but the cards evaluate most of them. the type of terrain and accessibility to it, the type of fuel in the area, the burning index for that particular day, whether hot, dry and windy or cool and cloudy. even the relative values of the resources in the threatened area are considered.
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whether prime timber, homes, or open range and brush, or watershed. obviously this was not a fire , that could be handled by a man with a back pump or even one that could be controlled at the initial attack stage. the primary problem was one of inaccessible terrain, making an approach by fire engines impossible and attacked by hand crews dangerous. terror attack provided the best solution to slowing down the fire until ground personnel could fight their tedious way in for a final control. [engines rumbling]
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although the fire burned three days, no lives or homes were lost. [engine growling] ♪ [telephone ringing]
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>> emergency fire dispatch 1440. what is the cross street? can i have your name and call back number? >> [indiscernible] >> would you dispatch the helicopter? >> [indiscernible] >> seminal and sunshine respond. >> order 541618, initial attack. grass fire, 1441 hrs.
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>> 5484, 54 82, and 5469. grass fire, cross street henderson. dispatch area c-7. dispatch area c-7. 1442. >> [indiscernible] 541618. dispatch area c-7. [siren wailing]
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[helicopter blades thumping] [siren wailing] ♪ ♪ ♪ narrator: this blaze started not through malice, merely through inattention and carelessness on the part of the operator. any internal combustion engine
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large or small is a hazard in a dry, grassy area. spark arrestors are a must under these conditions. because of early detection prompt and initial attack, the fire was extinguished in an hour at minimal cost. the achievement of any worthwhile project requires someone in charge at the working level. in the case of a fire, it is a fire boss. in initial attack circumstances, it is usually the station fire captain who assumes this responsibility. long-range fire suppression strategy may be planned in air-conditioned offices hundreds of miles from the scene. but like the infantry platoon commander, the fire boss must meet the enemy face-to-face and make immediate decisions as to the best method of attack. the first site of a fire from
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several miles away may yield some clues. the color and density of smoke may indicate what type of fuel is burning. the spread and intensity of the fire and the direction of the wind. upon arrival at the scene, several quick decisions must be made. one of the first and most important is whether the fire can be controlled with the men and equipment on the scene, or are additional forces necessary? if more help is needed, the time to ask for it is right then not , several hours after the fire has spread beyond initial attack containment stage. >> montevista, 5372, we are 1097 , two miles on the clean truck trail -- on mclean truck trail off of highway 94. about 25 acres of moderate brush going up, the moderate rate of spread. request additional hand crew and
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a dozer. narrator: having quickly evaluated the behavior of the fire, both present and probable future, the fire boss has decided what additional forces are necessary. now, as to the best method of attack, it is desirable of course to launch a direct assault with water on the flames at the perimeter. if this can be done safely, well and good. time will be saved. often, however, the steepness of the terrain and the heat of the fire at the perimeter make it impractical and dangerous to approach directly. in such cases, the firebox will -- the fire boss will probably create a break by removing the fuel in belt surrounding the perimeter. here, hand crews and bulldozers are the most valuable firefighting tools. natural barriers such as roads or small bodies of water can also be usefully incorporated into the fire break.
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once the break is completed, it must be carefully patrolled until the fire is completely out. shreds of burning fuel may blow across the break and start a new fire. if allowed to develop, the whole process would have to begin all over again. rarely will two fire situations be identical. addition tos, in going through training can , anticipate the behavior of any given fire according to the weather and fuel conditions. this kind of experience is further backed up by a network of protection, communication and coordination with other fire protection agencies. additionally, fire prevention and education programs are constantly being implemented at every age level and occupation.
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without all of this, existence in suburbia might be a day-to-day challenge. the recorded statistics following a fire are not very exciting. they may read something like this. 23 arear fire september burned 22,000 acres. damages estimated at $6.5 million. cost of suppression, $2.7 million. probable cause, lightning. those five short lines reveal little of the thousands of man-hours spent in training and preparing. they reveal even less the hour of heat, smoke, dust, exhaustion and sometimes outright terror is faced by men on the fire lines.
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men in fire protection agencies deeply cherish two phases in the work. the second favorite phase is the fire that is controlled at the initial attack stage. is the fire that never started. ♪ ♪ >> hello, folks. key, the forest fighting bear with a mighty important message for you. >> it is very rare in history you have one kind of originating moment. in a


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