Ash Pit Hazards
Ash pits are an inherent and hidden risk to wildland firefighters that can cause severe burns and injuries. Ash pits are created when a ground fire consumes underground fuels creating an empty space that is imperceptible from the surface.
Environmental factors that increase the risk of ash pit formation after a wildfire:
- Extensive root systems of trees and shrubs.
- Deep duff or peat, which is the organic layer covering mineral soil.
- Landscapes that have once been cultivated or manipulated by heavy equipment, old dozer piles, sawmills, timber sale yards, or decking areas.
Animal dwellings that have become filled with decadent combustible debris.
- Small rodent holes,
- Beaver holes near dams and stream beds, or
- Badger and coyote dens.
- White ash is sometimes an indicator of ash pits, as are swarms of hovering insects.
- With the sun behind the suspected ash pit, look for small nearly translucent smokes that dissipate quickly above the ground.
- Ash pits often give off the smell of incomplete combustion or of creosote burning.
Mitigation measures to consider:
- Identification of high-risk landscape.
- Identify and flag all hazardous discovered ash pits.
- 10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
- 10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110
- 18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
- Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
- NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
- NWCG Standards for Helicopter Operations, PMS 510
- RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
- Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center
Have an idea or feedback?
Share it with the NWCG 6MFS Subcommittee.