Pulaski (tool)

Head of a Nupla PA375-LESG Pulaski

The pulaski is a special hand tool used in wildland firefighting.

The tool combines an axe and an adze in one head, similar to that of the cutter mattock, with a rigid handle of wood, plastic, or fiberglass. The pulaski is a versatile tool for constructing firebreaks, as it can be used to both dig soil and chop wood. It is also well adapted for trail construction, gardening, and other outdoor work. As a gardening or excavation tool, it is effective for digging holes in root-bound or hard soil.

The invention of the pulaski is credited to Ed Pulaski, an assistant ranger with the United States Forest Service, in 1911,[1] [2] although a similar tool was first introduced in 1876 by the Collins Tool Company. Ed Pulaski was famous for taking action to save the lives of a crew of 45 firefighters during the disastrous August 1910 wildfires in Idaho. His invention (or reinvention[3]) of the tool that bears his name may have been a direct result of the disaster, as he saw the need for better firefighting tools. Ed Pulaski further refined the tool by 1913, and it came into use in the Rocky Mountain region. In 1920, the Forest Service began contracting for the tool to be commercially manufactured, but use remained regional for some years. The tool became a national standard in the 1930s.[3]

Raising the tool above head height while swinging is discouraged as this wastes energy and creates a safety hazard.[4]

An initialed ("E.P.") tool, which purportedly belonged to Pulaski himself, is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution at the Wallace District Mining Museum in Wallace, Idaho,.[3][5]

See also


  1. Spadafora, Ronald (2007). McGraw-Hill's Firefighter Exams. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 230. Invented by USFS ranger Ed Pulaski in 1911.
  2. Egan, Timothy (2009). The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire that Saved America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0-547-39460-2.
  3. 1 2 3 Davis, James B. (1986). "The True Story of the Pulaski Fire Tool" (PDF). Fire Management Notes. US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. 47 (3): 19–21. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  4. Hallman, Richard; Hutcheson, William; Mrkich, Dale (1997). Handtools for trail work. USDA Forest Service, Technology & Development Program. p. 18. Avoid raising the pick overhead while swinging; this wastes energy and creates a safety hazard because the heavy, narrow tool head cannot be easily controlled or directed.
  5. "The Pulaski Axe" (Video). Mysteries at the Museum, Season Six. Travel Channel. 2014. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
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