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Evolution of early on-the-ground-fire equipment

Fire plow
In 1941, the TFS Fire Protection Division purchased five, two-wheel, five-horsepower tractors for plowing firebreaks.

Fire plow 1941  fire plow 2

With this technology, firelines could be constructed at the rate of two miles per hour. That same year, Texas held its forest fire losses in East Texas to under 38,000 acres, about 160,000 acres less than was burned the previous year. The area burned represented less than a half of one percent of the nearly nine million timbered acres under TFS protection. This was the lowest ever recorded to that date. The low record gave Texas “bragging rights” over ten other southern states, at least for that year.

Fire jeep
TFS conducted experiments and tests to develop a firefighting unit from surplus military Jeeps—the first in the South. Especially adapted to conditions of terrain, soil and underbrush peculiar to Texas, the equipment included a specifically designed middle buster type plow which folded up into the bed of the Jeep, a front grill, belly plates, a winch and a hydraulic lift, oversize mud tires, and a two-way radio. Each unit was operated by a two-man crew, one to drive and plow a fireline about three-feet wide, the other to follow and set backfires. By 1947, TFS was operating 21 of these units.

 fire jeep 1 fire jeep 2

Crawler tractors fitted with fire plows and transported on a flat-bed truck began to replace the firefighting Jeep and farm tractor as the TFS fire arsenal became more mechanized.

List of Featured Articles


1/4/2015 12:17:49 PM - The role of the railroad for logging, early 1900's

The logging railroads of East Texas were formed as early the 1890s as a means to harvest the vast stands of old-growth timber and provided an advantage to the distance logs could be hauled as opposed to the conventional horse or oxen. Logging railroads played a key role in removing timber, moving sawmill products to market and bringing supplies into the remote logging camps and small towns.


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1/4/2015 12:14:59 PM - Life in a sawmill town, 1800's in Texas

Sawmill communities sprang up almost overnight as wood mills moved into East Texas during the 1800s.  These company towns supplied the workforce to the thriving timber industry and took on a colorful and insulated life of their own.


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1/4/2015 12:11:27 PM - Early forest industry in Texas

The forests of East Texas during the early 1800s was heavily wooded with thick groves of pines, cypress, oak, ash and other timber. The region was also laden with streams and waterways affording many favorable sites for sawmills and other wood-based businesses. Thus, the forest industry in Texas was born from supply.


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1/4/2015 12:23:25 PM - Forest products support naval stores

The yellow pines of Texas were used starting in the early 1900s to supply turpentine to Naval stores across the Southern United States.


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1/4/2015 12:24:53 PM - Fire lookouts

 The first steel forest fire lookout tower in Texas was erected in 1926 at 80 feet tall on the Kirbyville State Forest. This followed a colorful evolution of fire lookouts and how TFS detected wildfires in early days.


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1/4/2015 12:26:28 PM - Establishing tree nurseries throughout Texas

Tree seedling nurseries in Texas were born from the need to reforest following the timber harvesting boom, frequent wildfires and natural disasters. Filling this need, TFS established the first forest tree nursery in 1926—and continues to grow trees for Texas today.


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1/4/2015 12:34:41 PM - Civilian Conservation Corps sustains forests, parks and protection from wildfire

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal Program during the Great Depression, worked with TFS to help fortify state forests, nurseries and wildfire protection at a time when the nation needed them most. 


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1/4/2015 12:39:38 PM - Industry benefits from TFS research

Supporting the state economy and the environment, TFS has supplied the research and resources for industry and growth in Texas. In 1940 the agency’s work led to the opening of the first southern yellow pine mill for newsprint in the South.


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1/4/2015 12:44:17 PM - The Forest Products Laboratory

Always looking for better and more efficient uses of the state’s forest resources, the Forest Products Lab  spent 60 years improving processes, trimming efficiencies and developing innovative products and markets.


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1/4/2015 12:47:02 PM - World War II's impact on Texas forestry

In 1941, World War II stimulated the wood-based industry in Texas.


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1/4/2015 12:49:51 PM - Establishing Texas state forests

By 1920, the need to replenish the nation’s dwindling forests started to receive major attention at both the national and state levels. Over the next decade, Texas increased fire protection, established several state forests for education and demonstration purposes and set up state nurseries to provide seedlings as the first step in reforestation.   The 1923 forestry appropriation bill approved $20,000 for purchase of cut-over lands to serve as state forests. In 1924, the 1,702 acres of cut-over land near Kirbyville became State Forest #1, later named E. O. Siecke State Forest.   In 1925, the 1,616 acres near Conroe became State Forest #2, later named W. Goodrich Jones State Forest.   The 39th Legislature, in 1925, directed a study of conditions affecting the state’s timber supply and recommended the reforestation of privately-owned timberlands. This required seedlings but there were few seed trees left standing in most harvested areas. This need for seedling nurseries led to the transfer of 2,350 acres in Cherokee County from the State Prison System to the Department of Forestry becoming State Forest #3, later named I. D. Fairchild State Forest.   John Henry Kirby donated approximately 600 acres in Tyler County in 1928, creating State Forest #4, later named Kirby State Forest. Kirby required that revenue from the sale of forest products from this state forest be given to the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M College for scholarships.   In 1935, Houston County donated 660 acres to the state. This tract, the fifth state forest was named the Mission State Forest.  This state forest was transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1957 and became Mission Tejas State Park.   In 1985, about 520 acres located 3 miles southeast of Buna, Texas, in Jasper County was donated by Mrs. Leonora Masterson. Her husband, Paul Masterson was a former tree farmer and member of the Texas Forestry Association. Masterson State Forest became State Forest #5. Funds from the tract of timber income provide graduate student scholarships in forestry at Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin State Universities.   Today, Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) operates five state forests. Four of the lands are primarily working forests managed for timber production, wildlife habitat and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and storage, water filtration and flood control. The fifth state forest is used as an outdoor classroom. The Jones State Forest is nestled amid the booming housing and business development of Conroe, earning the unofficial moniker of Houston’s Backyard. Forestry practices such as mulching, thinning, harvesting, prescribed burning, and managing for wildlife habitat are showcased here to educate visitors on how to keep our lands healthy and productive. Sponsored educational programs on the forest also help people understand and connect to the land.


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1/4/2015 12:54:36 PM - Aerial wildfire detection

TFS was the first state forestry agency in the South to use aircraft to detect wildfires. This practice set a national standard and proved to be more efficient than use of fire towers and enabling faster and more exact response to wildfires.


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1/4/2015 12:56:02 PM - The American Tree Farm System in Texas

Who owns Texas? The management of 94% of the state’s natural resources is in the hands of the people. TFS maintains a strong partnership with landowners to keep our forests strong and healthy.


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9/19/2014 2:09:13 PM - Featured Article

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9/23/2014 4:27:22 PM - New featured Article

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