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Lesson 1: Safety, Quality, Quantity

By: Angela Mohar

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re probably right. A blog about safety? How boring. I would have to agree. It’s not the most exciting, but by taking safety seriously, heeding all warnings and wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) we can all help ourselves avoid serious harm. With that in mind, just humor me.

The Corps values the safety of its members, plain and simple. If I had a dime for every time in the first few weeks I heard the words safety and PPE, I would probably have a fair few dollars to spend. In fact for chainsaw and wildfire training the instructors actually said that if we answered ‘safety’ for questions on the test that we just might receive some credit even if we didn’t know the answer. While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, it illustrates how we are to have situational awareness at all times and be very mindful of our actions; one little kickback of the chainsaw for a novice sawyer can cause a world of hurt.

Even though safety isn’t the most exciting, it doesn’t always have to be boring. On our first day we did our driving checks and just before pulling out of the parking spot, the fellow crew member going first placed their fist in the middle of the seat back and said “pound it when you’re buckled!” From that point on we’ve pounded it to signal that we’re buckled and ready to hit the road. While it is a little thing, and maybe even a bit silly, it somehow has provided a sense of crew unity and bonding right from the beginning.

That sense of crew unity was certainly put to the test during our first days of field chainsaw training. While our crew leader supervised and instructed us one on one, the three of us without saws stood by as cheerleaders and as other resources to discuss what we were doing well or not so well (in between choruses of “timber,” of course). I’m grateful for everyone being so understanding and supportive while I overly-cautiously used the chainsaw those first few turns.

It was one of the most nerve-wracking moments in my life when it came time to yell “back-cut!” for the first time. The moments between that and when my tree finally fell, all while sawing, alternating looking up to the crown of the tree and back down, and just the anticipation of the tree falling were probably the most nerve-wracking. Amongst those nerves followed immediately by the adrenaline rush of realizing that the tree was falling (and of course, getting to yell “falling!”), I was very glad that I had been trained so well in proper techniques and, of course, safety.