IT WAS A TOUGH JOB. Fire rangers traveled alone or in pairs. They were continually on the move, patrolling the mountains, the prairies and the forests for signs of fire. Terrain dictated the method of travel.
Forests. Fire rangers patrolled on foot through the bush, blazing and clearing their own trails. They scrambled up hills and climbed trees to get a better view. Sometimes they built a small platform or ‘crow’s nest’ in a tall tree to survey the area.
Waterways. When river or lake systems wound through the patrol area, rangers patrolled by canoe – negotiating wind, weather, current, and portages. Steamboats were utilized for fire patrol on large bodies of water. Later, rangers patrolled in motorboats.
Mountains and Prairies. On trail systems, particularly in the mountains or on the open prairie, rangers rode horseback to patrol for fire. Royal North West Mounted Police Sergeant K.F. Anderson reported the fire situation on his Peace River patrol, 1912.
Roads. Fire rangers also patrolled in horse-drawn buggies or on bicycles, if roads or trail systems were good enough. Later as roads improved, horseless carriages – cars, trucks, or motorcycles – were used to patrol. Ranger Jim Taylor used his own 1914 Model T Ford on Patrols.
Railways. Rail patrols began well over one hundred years ago. The early steam locomotives were coal-fired. They spewed embers from the boiler, and sparks from the smokestack, igniting numerous fires along the right-of-way. In Newfoundland, the Chief Fire Ranger recorded a grand total of 63 fires along nine kilometres, or six miles, of railway track. At first rangers patrolled sections of track on foot. These Lone Track rangers were equipped with a water pail and shovel. Later velocipedes and motorized speeders replaced foot patrols.
AS TECHNOLOGY ADVANCED, railway motorcars, automobiles, motorcycles, and motor boats eased the work of the fire ranger. He could cover considerably more distance with a fraction of the effort.
No matter how a ranger patrolled his territory, one thing is certain. He knew his territory inside out. A fire ranger had to know the location of:
• high-value, high-risk areas - the places ready to explode into fire with one careless spark
• quickest routes to a fire - all the roads, trails, railroads, and communication lines
• closest bodies of water - lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds and their proximity to timber stands, communities, and other important areas
• firefighters and equipment.
The grueling day-to-day patrols provided the ranger with the practical information he needed to find, fight, and prevent fire.