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The early detection of forest fires is a key part of the Bureau's overall effort. The sooner a suspicious smoke is located and units are dispatched for investigation lessens needless damage to homes and property, and lowers overall suppression costs.
Early detection is achieved by trained Bureau observers who staff the statewide network of 42 operating fire towers. From their high vantage points, observers utilize alidade tables (see cover), binoculars, and topographic maps to triangulate the precise location of any fire. This information is then given to local community fire departments or Bureau district personnel for prompt response.
The Bureau also uses pro-active, county-based fire patrols of forested areas during periods of high fire danger. These patrols assist cities and towns in prevention efforts and allow for the swift deployment of mobile equipment for suppression of fires during their incipient stage.
This system can be supplemented by contracted, fixed wing detection aircraft during periods of extreme fire danger.
When fire does strike, Forest Fire Control personnel are prepared to respond. Bureau units are used at all fires that occur on state owned forest land and are available to municipal fire departments for mutual assistance purposes. Bureau fire-fighters are trained in the use of forestry tools, water pumps, brush breakers, and other motorized equipment; as well as fire behavior and fire safety. Water tankers, portable pumps, chain saws and other necessary equipment are maintained and ready for deployment. Individual members are prepared to lend advice and expertise in helo-port operations, water handling, fire behavior, Incident Command and other specialties.
Massachusetts also benefits from mutual aid agreements that the Commonwealth and Bureau are party to with other state and provincial forest fire control agencies. As a member of the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission and through the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau may call upon additional resources to combat any extreme conflagration that may occur within Massachusetts.