Ash Pit Hazards

Category: 
Misc Fireline Hazards
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Dec 2017

 

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, 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.
     
  • Small rodent holes that have become filled with decadent combustible debris, beaver holes near dams and stream beds, 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.

 

Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
PMS 461: Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG)
PMS 510: Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide (IHOG)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)

 

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