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August 2002

Smoke Thumpers

Volunteers beat back flames caused by a careless camper near Madison, Tennessee, during the drought of 1925. Their use of branches and burlap sacks to fight the fire—especially when water was scarce—isn’t so strange, according to John Ragsdale, a Nashville fire district chief. “I’ve used brooms too,” he says. “You can just sweep that kind of fire out sometimes.” And if the bristles burn? “You get yourself a new broom,” he shrugs. Brush fires are less common in the region these days. Now that Madison has been absorbed into suburban Nashville, there’s not much brush left.

This photo has never before been published in the magazine.

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Photo by AP/World Wide Photos