July 09, 2011

The Bosworth Fire Trencher: Another Bright Idea

The Bosworth Fire Trencher being demonstrated in the Black Hills National Forest in 1939.

Back in the days of "Fire: Enemy of the Forest," the Bosworth was touted as a useful tool. Funny thing, you don't see them now—just firefighters with hand tools or, in some circumstances, bulldozers and tractor plows. From a late-1930s report on firefighting on the Shoshone National Forest in western Wyoming:
New improvements are being constructed in the never-ending fight to prevent or quickly control forest fires. Equipment, such as the Bosworth fire trencher, is being developed. This is a small machine which is guided by an operator and motored by a marine engine. The motor propels a series of steel lugs which kick out dirt and debris and speedily clear a fire trail down to mineral soil.
This tiller-type tool might have worked in the Black Hills, where many slopes are not too steep and you do not have any type of inter-rooted scrub oaks to contend with, just nice, straight-trunked ponderosa pines. How well it handled rocks I do not know.

In 1939, Dad was just out of forestry school at Fort Collins and engaged in his ill-fated attempt to become an Army Air Corps pilot at Randolph Field, San Antonio. A year later he was back into forestry—were he still alive, I would have asked him if he ever had encountered the Bosworth Fire Trencher. Probably not, I suspect.

I like the way that the operator is dressed: hat, leather jacket, twill trousers—classic. What Indiana Jones was imitating.


Janeen said...

My father was a career Forest Service man and though he worked in construction he called to work on a lot of fires in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Many of them were in the midwest. I wonder if he ever saw one.

He's been gone almost 20 years now, so I can't ask him.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I can't say for sure, but it would not surprise me if the Bosworth faded from sight after World War II, when newer, better toys became available.