An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Aug. 21, 2015

On the California fire lines, meet Pulaski and McLeod tools of the trade

By Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza California National Guard

LAKEPORT, Calif. - Each morning during this fire season, Soldiers from the California National Guard’s Task Force Charlie shake hands with Dr. Pulaski and Dr. McLeod before heading into the Northern California hills to fight wildfires.

Pulaski, the surgeon, is the favorite of the California Guard members who are mopping up the remains of the Rocky Fire, Humboldt Lightning Fire and Jerusalem Fire. Pulaski gets called often to operate on the toughest limbs in the area.

McLeod, a dentist, is as ugly as can be. He’s got three-inch teeth that are gapped far apart; you don’t know whether to smile back or kick a field goal. Although ugly, McLeod is best for root canals.

“He’s not cool at all,” said Sean Surahara, military liaison for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). “He’s ugly, but he’s important, so we keep him around.”

Pulaski and McCleod are the names of two vital tools that California National Guard hand crews have been carrying into the hills. Along with Dr. Axe and Sir Shovel, this foursome can bring dead terrain back to life. And they certainly are effective — right behind water — in battling Northern California blazes.

Guard assets from several states have been called up to assist state officials in fighting the wildfires that have burned at least 750,000 acres. Guard members in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana have been providing aviation support, working as hand crews responsible for creating firebreaks and providing communications and other logistical support requirements.

Latest figures from the National Guard Bureau show about 30 troops on duty in Oregon, about 410 working in Washington state and about 840 Guard members on fire duty in California.

Pulaski is a two-headed hand tool, a combination of axe and pick. Like a gardener or farmer’s mattock, it can be used for chopping and digging. When California Guardsmen mop up a fire, they constantly do both to extinguish a hot spot. They cut tree branches, logs, roots — anything that’s still burning or capable of burning in the future — using CAL FIRE’s most popular tool.

“Anyone who’s out fighting fires, regardless of whether they’re mopping up or making a fire line, will likely have a Pulaski,” Surahara said. “When we watched the Soldiers in training [at Camp Roberts], we noticed the ones who are good at Pulaskis or good with other tools. If you’re good with a tool, that’s the one you’ll end up with on the fire line.”

The McLeod is multisided and serves as a rake and cutting knife. The rake end can move debris and flatten ground, while the cutting edges serve as a hoe. It’s an ugly-looking piece of equipment but it gets the job done.

“Both tools are a firefighter’s best friends,” Surahara said. “For wildland fires, these are the standard tools.”

Surahara demonstrated the tools’ other purposes, such as deeply implanting them to use as leverage when climbing steep terrain. The Pulaski and McLeod are ground-pounding, dirt-excavating hand equipment, but they are invaluable to clearing debris in tough areas.

“These tools are on every piece of firefighting equipment out here,” added Surahara. “It’ll be impossible to fight a fire without them.”

“There’s nothing else that they can be replaced with,” said CAL FIRE’s Rodney Jared, who guides California Guardsmen on mop up missions.

California Soldiers are responsible for their specific tools. The day doesn’t end until they’re off the fire line sharpening their Pulaskis and McLeods. Each Soldier is issued a file for that purpose.

“It’s like a weapon given to a Soldier. You take care of it, it takes care of you,” said Surahara. “If you want your weapon to be effective, you sharpen it up.”

Pulaski’s and McLeod’s origins date to the early 1900s. Malcolm McLeod, a U.S. Forest Service Ranger, created his strange looking but effective hand tool. Ed Pulaski, also a Forest Service Ranger, invented and patented the Pulaski.

 

 

Related Articles
Col. Cathi Cherry, commander of the Professional Education Center; Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard; Lt. Col. Elvin Zapata, oldest Soldier serving at PEC; Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Sgt. Rhett Crandall, youngest Soldier serving at PEC; and Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, cut the cake at a 50th-anniversary celebration for the PEC on Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, May 16, 2024. PEC is home to more than 480 courses spanning six battalions to train Army National Guard Soldiers and Department of Army civilians in cybersecurity, human resources, logistics, recruiting and retention, strategy and leader development, and finance.
National Guard Professional Education Center Celebrates 50 Years
By Sgt. 1st Class Christie Smith, | May 20, 2024
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Fifty years ago, the Army National Guard identified a need to provide ongoing training to the Soldiers and civilians who worked for the Guard full time, keeping units and armories running between...

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Peter Fillion, an infantryman assigned to Charlie Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, lobs a simulation grenade during the 2024 Region I Best Warrior Competition on Camp Smith, New York, May 14, 2024. Soldiers threw grenades in six scenarios during the event, one of many taskings during the four-day competition.
New York, Connecticut Soldiers are Regional Best Warriors
By Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Pietrantoni, | May 20, 2024
CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, N.Y. – New York and Connecticut National Guard Soldiers took the top slots in the regional Best Warrior Competition that concluded in lower Manhattan May 16.New York Army National Guard Sgt. Peter...

Cabo Verde military leaders pose for a picture with Airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, May 9, 2024. The State Partnership Program exchange enabled Cabo Verde leaders to learn more about the wing's mission and where the partners can work together as Cabo Verde explores a military aviation program.
New Hampshire Guard Welcomes Cabo Verde State Partners
By Tech. Sgt. Victoria Nelson, | May 17, 2024
PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. - Cabo Verde military leaders visited New Hampshire National Guard Airmen at the 157th Air Refueling Wing for a three-day State Partnership Program exchange May 7-10.“These visits continue...