Fighting fire with air

June 27, 2012

Safety tips from Husqvarna's national training manager, Roger Jackson...

Blowing a forest fire with a blower

Sbu Hadebe of Husqvarna demonstrates the effectiveness of the blower on a grass fire.


Uncontrolled fires result in massive devastation. That’s why Roger advises using innovative fire-fighting tools to supplement traditional fire control methods.

Dry winter conditions, winds and a lack of adequate firebreaks are major contributors to runaway fires. In the past 25 years, South Africa has lost an average of 14 000 ha of forested areas to runaway fires each year.

Although firefighting methods using water can never be substituted, the use of a blower can assist with fire control and fire prevention. A blower can be a more time and cost-effective solution than using rakes, hoes and fire beaters.

Blowers have proven effective both for preventative fire control and for extinguishing small or short grass fires, either directly or from behind.

By standing a few metres behind a fire and blowing half-throttle in the direction you wish a fire to move, you can fuel a wet or slow burning fire and successfully control a burn in the desired direction. This is especially useful when creating trace line firebreaks.

Fire control teams should consist of at least two people, facilitating the control of a fire from two directions. Once you are ready to clear or control a burn, the blower's nozzle can be directed at the base of a fire, starving it of oxygen and fuel.

In the case of leaf or foliage ground fires, you can control a fire break by directing the nozzle close to the ground, blowing all loose foliage towards the fire and destroying potential fuel. This cuts off additional escape hatches and contains a fire.

Blowers are also effective when creating fire breaks in forests from the roadside or between rows of trees. In an under-canopy burn, you can clear dangerous fuel away from the base of a tree that, once ignited, would damage trees. Worse still, this could result in a fire spreading upwards and then outwards through a forest canopy. Blowers are particularly useful when 'mopping up' after a burn as they easily extinguish smouldering embers in grass tufts. Remember: left unchecked, these are potential fire hazards that can result in continued burning.

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Published in April 2012

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