In the majority of wildfire situations, firefighters are required to work in remote and hostile terrain in an attempt to prevent the spread of the fire, and in so doing reduce the chances of damage and destruction to infrastructure and settlements in its path.
While water is one of the best items to be used for extinguishing vegetation fires, this luxury is seldom on hand, and it is up to the teams to make use of basic handtools that have been specially designed to suppress the flames.
a) Fire beater: This item, also known as a bush beater, consist of a heavy-duty broom handle with strips of conveyer-belt rubber on the one end. This is used to beat and smother the flames of medium to small plants that are burning.
b) Rake hoe: Very much as the name implies, it is a heavy-duty broom handle with a combination of a wide-toothed rake, and a flat bladed hoe located on the one end. This handy tool is used to push burning material back into the fire, and pull unburned material away from the fire, creating a small firebreak. Despite the extreme heat encountered by firefighters using these handtools, the handles cannot be too long, as this would create problems when being transported in helicopters to the fire site.
c) Knapsack tank : This unpopular item is simply a glorified spray tank, much like the one used by gardeners to spray pesticides and herbicides. The difference is that the knapsack tank has a volume of 16 – 25 litres, and has a greater spray ability. Bulky and uncomfortable to carry, no-one is usually too keen to volunteer to use this item.
d) Drip torch: This consists of a container with a long narrow spout with a pig tail twist in it. At the end is a “non-return safety valve” and a wick. Filled with a mixture of petrol and diesel, the burning wick drips lighted fuel onto the vegetation to assist firefighters needing to start a back-burn. Back burning is sometimes the only means possible to stop a runaway fire.
e) Spade : Of more use in flat and sandy areas, it is used to throw sand onto burning vegetation in an attempt to knock the flame out. It is not used to bury coals or other burning material, as this would simply increase the possibility of “pop-up” fires occurring, sometime as long as 4 months later.