Volunteer Ed Leonard sharpens his Pulaski on a WV trip in Dolly Sods 2012

If you’ve been on a service project with WV, there is a very good chance you’ve used a Pulaski. This common hand-tool features an ax on one side of the head and an adze or hoe on the other. The Pulaski is the preferred tool of choice in fighting wildfires and building trail, among many other outdoor uses. But do you know the circumstances of how it was invented?

Last week the television series American Experience, which airs on PBS stations across the country, featured an in-depth documentary on the massive fire of 1910 in the northern Rockies, The Big Burn. Still unsurpassed in American history, this gigantic blaze burned more than 3 million acres and over 100 lives were lost in a weekend. The documentary details the impact this fire would have on the burgeoning National Forest Service and the tenuous political climate surrounding Gifford Pinchot and the agency’s growth under President Theodore Roosevelt. Also detailed in the documentary is the valiant efforts and particular history of one assistant ranger in Idaho, Ed Pulaski.

For anyone who has swung a Pulaski and/or cares about the history of our public lands, it is a really interesting tale. Luckily, if you missed it, you can watch it below. More information is also available on the American Experience website.

Please let us know what you thought of this documentary in the comments section below.