Smokey's New Wheels

As another drought-fueled wildfire season looms over the West, a new 27-ton Tonka truck is set to roll into the flames

Jan 8, 2001
Outside Magazine

Inferno machine: the Proteus Fire Master

YOU'RE A FIRE boss, right? Well, step on over here and feast your eyes on this baby—the Proteus FireMaster, built right here in Missoula and ready for action anywhere you need 'er. She'll grab a burning pine, cut it down, give it a good soaking, and drop that bad boy on the safe side of your firebreak—all on a 35-degree slope! She's also got a helicopter-refillable, 3,000-plus-gallon water tank, a telescoping water cannon, an eight-foot dozer blade, and a boom-mounted grapple claw and 18-inch bar saw.

Not sold yet? Hell, this puppy's got—all standard features, y'understand—an onboard weather-radio system, outboard video cameras, CD player, air-conditioning, three escape hatches, GPS, and a fire-suppression system that'll flood the engine compartment and hydraulics with halon gas at the touch of a button on the dash.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Wildfire fighting is about tactics," you're telling yourself. "That thing between my ears is called a brain, and that's the most important tool out on the line—not some 27-ton, $350,000 behemoth." But what you've got here is a mechanical army. Last summer, we rolled a Proteus prototype into the Lost Trail Fire, a resort operation right here in the Bitterroots. That burn was sure enough marching down the ski hill. A team went after it with Proteus and a fleet of helicopters, and we stopped it in its tracks.

Now, we both know things are gonna be bad this summer. Last year more than seven million acres went up across the country, and with the drought still hanging on, things aren't looking much better this season. Hotshots are in short supply. Proteus here is the answer. Just sign this leasing agreement, and we'll get you set up for just $475 an hour. Wait... Did I tell you about the optional undercoating?

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