By Ralph Redburn, Ranger Naturalist
While on one of the regular scenic sunrise flights over the Grand Canyon and Kaibab Forest this past summer, with Jack Thornburg as pilot, a fire burning briskly in the western portion of the forests within the park boundary was sighted. After landing I telephoned Ranger Hamilton and Ranger Laws about it, stating that another flight would be made in a few minutes on which they could go if they wished to determine the exact location of the fire. The two rangers drove the eighteen miles to the airport in record time, A flight was then made, this tine going much closer to the fire. After returning, Rangers Hamilton and Laws started for the place in a permanently equipped fire truck maintained for such duty. It was with considerable interest that I later listened to their story concerning the remainder of the trip to the fire.
After driving some twenty miles through the thickly wooded forest over auto trails, good and not so good, the rangers stopped and climbed a tree to see if they were continuing in the right direction. Finding they could no longer profit by car travel because from there the auto trail led them in the wrong direction, they planned to abandon the truck and continue by foot. While in the tree looking for the fire, however, they had noticed some horses nearby inside a corral surrounding one of the few water holes found on the plateau. Quickly closing the gate through which the horses had entered the enclosure, they had the animals shut in. After some deliberation and skillful manipulation of a lariat made from various ropes found in the truck, they soon had these none too recently ridden horses under control. By use of improvised hackamores they were able to lead them to the truck and pack two of them with fire fighting equipment and food. The other two they mounted, and after giving the animals a preliminary try-out, were again on their way.
With some difficulty they were able to ride in the direction of the fire. Stops were made during which one of the rangers would climb a tree to get the correct bearing of the fire. Arriving within three hundred yards of it, they dismounted, unpacked, and covered the remaining distance on foot.
After a few hours of hard labor they were able to bring the fire under control.
It may be of interest to call to mind the various means of transportation used in locating and arriving at the fire. First, by tri-motor airplane: second, by light truck; third, by horse: and fourth, by foot. Although this is reversing the evolutionary development of means of transportation, it still goes to show the great advantage of airplane observation for the discovery and control of forest fires.
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