For seven decades the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service’s National Technology and Development Program, has provided practical solutions to problems identified by its employees and partners. The program helps the Forest Service manage the nation’s natural resources efficiently and safely. Other agencies and private groups have adopted many of the program’s solutions.
The National Technology and Development Program (T&D) operates two centers — one in Missoula, Montana and the other in San Dimas, California. The combined staff of 107 people works on about 250 projects each year.
The San Dimas Technology and Development Center
After World War II, Forest Service employees began consolidating equipment development activities, including the modification of surplus military equipment at the Arcadia Fire Equipment Development Center in Arcadia, California. In the late 1940s a conference of Forest Service range managers and researchers recognized the need to improve, develop and adapt equipment for range seeding.
In 1965, fire activity in Southern California, evolving industrial and academic centers, and an available Forest Service facility, provided the opportunity to move the Arcadia center to San Dimas, California.
The Missoula Technology and Development Center
During the late 1940s Forest Service employees at the Aerial Fire Depot in Missoula, Montana began working on more effective ways to use aircraft for fighting fires in remote areas. When aircraft detected a forest fire, dispatchers quickly sent smokejumpers and cargo to be dropped on the fire. The success of these techniques led to the establishment of Missoula Aerial Equipment Development Center in 1953.
Center employees worked at a variety of locations before operations moved to Fort Missoula during the 1960s. In 2002, the Missoula Technology and Development Center moved to its own facility on the Forest Service campus, west of Johnson-Bell Field Airport. The campus also includes a fire lab, aerial fire depot, and northern region smokejumper base.
Expanding the T&D Program’s Role
In 1987, the names of both centers were changed from Equipment Development Centers to Technology and Development Centers recognizing their expanding roles in solving issues nationally. Today, the two centers operate as one National Technology and Development Program.
A History of Advancing Technology & Preserving Tradition
Development and Testing of Fire Engines
In T&D’s early days the first projects involved improving firefighting equipment. T&D continues to improve all manner of fire equipment, helping firefighters better manage wildland fires.
Helicopter Rappelling and Short Haul
Since their introduction to firefighting in 1947, helicopters have delivered firefighters and gear to inaccessible terrain by landing in roadless areas or by rappelling when no landing areas are available. T&D tests cargo nets, rappelling ropes and descenders to ascertain their effectiveness and safety for use. The Forest Service recently adopted short haul techniques (suspending humans beneath a helicopter) to assist in extracting seriously injured employees from the fireground.
Spark Arrester Testing
Off-highway vehicles, motorcycles and chain saws can start forest fires if their exhausts throw sparks. In 1952, T&D initiated spark arrester testing. Today, T&D continues to test and qualify spark arresters for use on lands administered by the Forest Service and other federal agencies.
Development and Testing of Fire Shelters
T&D began testing fire shelters carried by wildland firefighters in the 1950s. In the early 2000s, T&D developed a new version of the fire shelter. Although no shelter can protect firefighters from all conditions, the resulting fire shelters provide additional protection. Their fire shelters have saved the lives of more than 300 firefighters and prevented many more injuries.
Evaluation and Testing of Wildland Fire Chemicals
Since the early 1960s the T&D’s Wildland Fire Chemicals group has provided detailed information on fire suppression and retarding chemicals. Once a product qualifies for use, the Forest Service adds it to the Qualified Products List (QPL). State agencies and foreign governments also use the QPL.
Firefighter Health and Safety
In 1962, T&D and the University of Montana Human Physiology Laboratory began researching the wellbeing of wildland firefighters. Today, T&D tracks firefighter nutrition, fitness, heat stress, hearing conservation, smoke exposure, and job demands.
With the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, there was a need to preserve traditional skills. T&D has developed publications, training guides, and DVDs on using crosscut saws and axes, minimizing impacts of stock, restoring historic structures and using non-motorized rigging.
Aerial Delivery Systems
T&D’s Aerial Delivery Systems program began in the mid-1970s by evaluating fixed-wing and helicopter retardant delivery systems. T&D conducts drop tests for aircraft performance and provides support to fire and aviation management personnel.
Aerial and Ground Ignition
In the late 1970s, the Forest Service began using aerial ignition; such as gelled fuel delivered by helitorch, to reduce ground fuels. Currently, T&D is working on a spark-ignited utility-terrain vehicle torch to ignite ground fuels.
Improved Logging Systems
In the early 1980s, T&D developed the miniyarder that allows loggers to pull small-diameter logs from the forest. Unlike commercial yarders, the Bitterroot Miniyarder is small enough to haul in the bed of a pickup truck.
In the early 1990s, T&D worked with a private contractor to design a next generation Forest Service round parachute. The design eventually became the FS-14 parachute, which replaced the FS-12. U.S. Special Forces adopted the FS-14, which became the military’s SF-10A parachute. In 2016, the Forest Service will begin transitioning to a Ram-air parachute system.
Since 1990, vault toilets at Forest Service campgrounds have relied on a passive ventilation system that keeps most of the odor outside. Recently, T&D identified methods and provided a guide for keeping wildlife out of building vents and other open-topped pipes.
T&D develops equipment and guidebooks to help make campgrounds and recreation areas usable by people of all ages and abilities.
Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetics Resources
T&D has a long history of providing assistance and developing solutions to problems encountered by Forest Service nursery and extractory personnel, silviculturists, geneticists, and reforestation specialists.
Tree Marking Paint
In the early 2000s, T&D facilitated the change from oil-based paint to water-based paint. T&D manages the tree marking paint contract to ensure that the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management are using the most effective and safe products available.
Bridge, Water, Road and Erosion Resources
The National Forest System currently contains about 371,000 miles of roads that cross a variety of ecosystems. T&D supplies resources to help managers maintain the integrity of road systems and surrounding areas.
Chief Information Office
In 2010, T&D began a program dedicated to supporting the Forest Service Chief Information Office (CIO). T&D provides a bridge between CIO and field personnel — supplying valuable field requirements, pilot testing, and evaluation of new technologies; such as mobile and field data collection hardware and software.
Heritage Preservation Resources
Historic buildings are a significant part of the Forest Service recreation program. T&D helps preserve Forest Service heritage by developing guides for historic preservation and administration.
Contact the program
For more information, visit their website at www.fs.fed.us/t-d or call the Missoula Technology and Development Center @ (406) 329–3900 or the San Dimas Technology and Development Center @ (909) 599–1267. The work produced by T&D is in the public domain and free of charge.