The Story of Edward Pulaski and the Pulaski Tool

In August, 1910, a fire called The Big Blowup blazed through parts of Montana and Idaho, burning approximately 3 million acres of land. Edward Pulaski, a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) park ranger, was asked to take a firefighting crew out to help control the fire. Pulaski and 45 firefighters ventured out, but suddenly found themselves trapped in a firestorm.

Luckily, Pulaski knew about a nearby mineshaft where his crew could attempt to take refuge from the smoke and flames. According to the story, Pulaski’s crew was so terrified of the wall of fire that was quickly closing in on them that Pulaski had to hold them at gunpoint to keep them from fleeing. He fought the fire at the mine entrance, but ended up passing out from smoke inhalation. Of the 45 members of Pulaski’s crew, an astonishing 39 of them survived the ordeal—including Pulaski. He continued to work for the USFS after The Big Blowup.

Pulaski is still known today for his contributions to firefighting. He created an important tool called the Pulaski tool, which modern-day firefighters continue to use. This tool has both an axe and a hoe-like feature on it to help with the construction of fire lines.

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