16 Mar 2018

Phoenix Field School Week 5: Wildland Chainsaw and Off-Road Vehicle Training

Project Location: Bureau of Land Management (BLM),

16 Mar 2018

Project Location: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Phoenix District Office and Agua Fria National Monument

Project Partner:  Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fire Program

Hitch Accomplishments: S-212 Wildland Chainsaw Training and Off-Road Vehicle (OHV/ATV) Training

Tuesday, February 20, 2018:  This week, the Phoenix Field School crew, in their 5th week of the program, completed the S-212 Wildland Chainsaw Training course led by the BLM Phoenix District Fire Program. This hands-on training course is designed to train and prepare individuals for proper use and maintenance of saws for resource and field projects. The hands-on course includes 16 hours of classroom instruction followed by a practical field training day.  On day one of the classroom instruction take the BLM Phoenix District Office, the Field School learned about the specific safety requirements for saw work including: identifying sources for chainsaw regulations and standards; examining Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs) associated with saw work; defining appropriate chainsaw PPE, and identifying situational awareness. Additionally, throughout the day, the students learned hands-on about the different chainsaw parts and associated maintenance and operation (including identifying basic chainsaw parts, adjustments) of tools and supplies to support chainsaw operation and use.  In the afternoon, the Field School began learning about fireline construction and Mop Up, defining the duties and responsibilities of the sawyer and swamper, explaining the tactical application of chainsaw use and methods in fireline and mop projects. It was a lot of new and exciting information but the crew’s previous wildland firefighting training experience (Week 2) allowed them to have a solid foundation going into the chainsaw training this week!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018:  On Wednesday, the Field School crew met at BLM for day two of the S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaw training course. After briefly reviewing the lessons from yesterday, the students began learning about the various chainsaw techniques including proper methods and applications as well as common errors in saw work and how to prevent and mitigate such issues. The crew covered the following saw techniques: chainsaw handling, bucking, limbing, brushing, slashing and felling. Much of the day was committed to theoretical application of these techniques to prepare the students for tomorrow practical field cut day.

Thursday, February 22, 2018:  On Thursday morning, the Field School crew traveled to the BLM managed Agua Fria National Monument (located north of Phoenix, AZ) for the field day of the S-212 training course to practice handling and cutting with saws. In addition to gaining hands-on experience handling and running a saw, the site of the training is an active juniper thinning project working to restore the original grassland habitat of the Monument for Sonoran pronghorn migration. Throughout the day, each student worked alongside the BLM instructors with assistance with Crew Leader, Ian to practice surveying, limbing, bucking, and making face cuts. The students rotated tasks getting considerable amount of hands-on training and mentoring with instructors and Ian to put the classroom learning into practice. Despite the chilly winter weather and wind on the Monument, the crew practiced their new skills  sawing and stacking fuel piles for the habitat restoration effort. Then, the crew packed up saws and headed back to the BLM office to complete saw maintenance including sharpening chains, cleaning powerheads, filing and cleaning bars, and checking filters, spark plugs and grease bearings.. After debriefing the week’s training, the crew received their S-212 certifications.

Friday, February 23, 2018:  On Friday, the Field School crew participated in another program training course – Off Road Vehicle (OHV and ATV) training. After meeting at the BLM at to rig up, the crew traveled a half hour north to the Ben Avery Shooting Range, the AZ Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) OHV training site.  The crew began the morning with a pre-ride safety inspection checklist for the ATV/UTVs. Once all Off Road vehicles were inspected and proved to be in safe, working order, the instructors went over safety expectations and required PPE for OHV use. Then, the crew participated in a variety of practical driving exercises learning how to operate and safely maneuver the ATV/UTVs. After lots of practice on the even ground of the training course, the students advanced to safely maneuvering over uneven surfaces driving up and down steep hills, over rocky and uneven surfaces, and through water and mud.

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