The Pulaski is a special hand tool used in fighting wildfires which combines an axe and an adze in one head. Similar to a cutter mattock, it has a rigid handle of wood, plastic, or fiberglass. The Pulaski is used for constructing firebreaks, able to both dig soil and chop wood. It is also well adapted for trail construction, and can be used for gardening and other outdoor work for general excavation and digging holes in root-bound or hard soil. The axe blade of the pulaski is the primary cutting edge, while the adze blade is secondary; this is the opposite of the cutter mattock, in which the adze blade is the larger of the two.
The invention of the Pulaski is credited to Ed Pulaski, an assistant ranger with the United States Forest Service, in 1911, although a similar tool was first introduced in 1876 by the Collins Tool Company. 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) of the tool that bears his name may have been a result of the disaster, as he saw the need for better firefighting tools. 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.
Raising the tool above the user's head while swinging may, according to one author, waste energy and create a safety hazard.
- "The Big Burn-What's a Pulaski?". American Experience. PBS. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
- Spadafora, Ronald (2007). McGraw-Hill's Firefighter Exams. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 230.
Invented by USFS ranger Ed Pulaski in 1911.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "The Pulaski Axe" (Video). Mysteries at the Museum, Season Six. Travel Channel. 2014. Retrieved April 22, 2016.