The Forest Service requires that volunteers - who use chainsaws to clear trails of downed trees - get certified or recertified every 3 years.
According to the Forest Service, volunteer sawyers covered by those policies often maintain trails on national forests and grasslands or work in Wilderness where crosscut saws are required. The national saw directive standardizes training, evaluation, certification, and safety procedures for sawyers operating on lands managed by the agency.
Valid Red Cross Adult First Aid Card
The FS requires volunteers to have a valid Red Cross First Aid/CPR certification card BEFORE you can take the FS Chainsaw Certification class. Depending on where you live, the Red Cross
Classes (usually ½ day or so) are either online or you attend in person. Costs vary from $25 dollars for the online course to $115 for the classroom.
To learn more about the American Red Cross training programs, please visit:
The safety planning components are related to Felling, Bucking, Brushing and Limbing Plans that uses a planning logic strategy which includes the following analysis and project description categories; Objective, Hazards/Obstacles, Leans/Binds, Escape Routes, and Cut Plan (OHLEC). This process is applied to all phases of the saw operation.
Historically, the chainsaw certification levels were largely based on tree size or Diameter at Breast Height (DBH). The current certification rating is more focused on the complexity of the specific felling or bucking task using OHLEC as a decision matrix. The sawyer certification levels are listed below.
A Sawyer. An apprentice sawyer who may saw only in the least complex situations or, for training purposes, at the next higher level and in either case only under the immediate supervision of a B or C Sawyer qualified to supervise the work.
B Sawyer – Bucking Only (not applicable in the fire management context). An intermediate sawyer who may independently buck and limb any size material in moderately complex situations and who may saw at the next higher level, but only under the immediate supervision of a sawyer qualified to supervise the work
B Sawyer – Felling and Bucking. An intermediate sawyer who may independently fell, buck, and limb any size material in moderately complex situations. This person may saw at the next higher level under the immediate supervision of a sawyer qualified to supervise the work. This person may also conduct classroom and field training for A and B Sawyers with prior written approval from the Saw Program Coordinator.
C Sawyer – Bucking Only (not applicable in the fire management context). An advanced sawyer who may independently buck and limb any size material in highly complex situations based on the Regional Saw Program Manager’s or Saw Program Coordinator’s written recommendation. The recommendation must be supported by demonstrated advanced saw knowledge, skills, and in most cases certification as a B Sawyer. This person may conduct classroom and field training within that person’s skill level for A and B Sawyers, and may conduct field proficiency evaluations within that person’s skill level for A Sawyers and B Sawyers ̶ Bucking Only.
C Sawyer ̶ Felling and Bucking. An advanced sawyer who may independently fell, buck, and limb any size material in highly complex situations based on the Regional Saw Program Manager’s or Saw Program Coordinator’s written recommendation. The recommendation must be supported by demonstrated advanced saw knowledge, skills, and in most cases certification as a B Sawyer. This person may conduct classroom, field training, and proficiency evaluations for A and B Sawyers.
LINK TO INFO ON THE FOREST SERVICE NATIONAL SAW PROGRAM
Again, the training is very comprehensive. Topics include, but are not limited to: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), area size up, proper body positioning and stance, familiarity with OSHA requirements and regulations, physics of “binds”, physics of “kickback”, sawyer/swamper communication, cutting area control, danger tree awareness, job hazard analysis and emergency evacuation plans, Forest Service radio communication, radio procedures and how to use a Forest Service radio; parts of the chainsaw, how to sharpen chainsaw chain, and saw maintenance; and of course the inclusion of safe chainsaw handling, starting and stopping procedures, use of escape routes, and safe fueling of the saw to avoid “fuel geysers.”
It is important to set aside two days for the FS Chainsaw Class which includes one day in the classroom and one day in the field. And again, plan for ½ a day to attend a Red Cross First Aid class.
As OHV stakeholders and partners wait for volunteer post-wildfire projects to be scheduled -- once the fires are out, mop up operations are concluded, and the FS or BLM are ready to starting planning for volunteer projects -- you can be proactive and get your Red Cross First Aid certification NOW and be ready to attend a FS chainsaw class when they are announced.
The need for a trained professional volunteer workforce will continue to grow as we face the current and future impacts of wildfires on federal recreation areas.
*Don Amador also serves as the Operations Chief for the Post Wildfire OHV Recovery Alliance
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