What exactly is a 'burn out operation'?

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

A firefighter documents an aerial fire ignition system (PSD).


by Mark Johnson

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVB


Posted on August 22, 2012 at 11:13 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 9:37 AM

PINE, Idaho -- A "burn out operation" is a tactic firefighters use to stop oncoming wildfires and to protect communities.

Rod Collins is a fire chief with the U.S. Forest Service who knows a lot about the term.

Collins says his team is taking a very aggressive plan of attack in the effort to save the Featherville area by implementing a very large burn out operation.

The operation uses a helicopter to drop small, combustible ping pong type balls that start a fire line. Officials say these balls are filled with potassium permanganate and antifreeze. When the mixture hits the ground, it immediately burns very hot and fast.

Ground crews with fire cans filled with a diesel/gas mixture also assist in the burning operation.

The combined efforts allows a smaller, man-made fire to burn trees, grass, and brush that would otherwise be sucked up into the massive Trinity Ridge Fire.

"This is our line of defense" Collins told KTVB. "We are prepared, and I feel the probability of success of defending the structures is very high."

Crews will continue to drop these ping pong type balls late Thursday afternoon and into Friday.

There are around a dozen fire engines from Star, Eagle, and Meridian, and Gooding on the perimeter of Featherville watching out for the fire.

In addition to the dozen engines, firefighters and structure firefighters just in case some of those embers end up making it into town.