- Jon Riley
SAWW 2 - Return of the Tree Slayer
There are not many things more dangerous than a chainsaw. Maybe a gun, maybe a hippopotamus, but certainly chainsaws are up there. This year's Safety and Woods Working course (SAWW) gave all 10 participants a healthy new respect for such a powerful machine squashing all notions of "yeah, yeah,I know what I'm doing." Turns out even the organizer (a 35 y/o firefighter who has been running a chainsaw for 45 years) learned a thing or two.
The course was supported with funding from the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Network which holds a federal grant from the BLM to empower communities like ours to adapt and live with fire. Check out some of our previous blog posts to get a better understanding of what that looks like. We offered the course with the intention of multiplying the workforce for actions recommended to make a home and family safer from wildfire. Many of our conversations follow this script (note: if we've ever had a conversation you'll know I pick on Marty a lot):
"You need to remove these trees, and shrubs."- Jon
"Ok, I understand." - Marty
Some weeks later at Bela Bistro:
"Hey Marty, how did the tree removal go?" - Jon
"Too expensive, and I don't know how to do it myself so we're just living with it." - Marty
Enter chainsaw class. Teaching safety and skills to home owners so they can help themselves, help their neighbors, volunteer, adapt their community to wildfire, etc. If Marty took the class he would have learned how to directionally fell a 60 ft tree, limb and buck a log, cut tension, sharpen chain, make mistakes and do it all under the watchful eye of a professional instructor. Here's an example of one of the cuts we learned:
The participants contributed two days of engaged conversation, shared knowledge and experience, and all agree learned a lot. We are all excited for more and I have no doubt this 2-day learning opportunity will transform into wildfire risk reduction at nearly every opportunity. The commitment of the group was highlighted at the end of each day cleaning up the mess we made. The group rallied to leave the property better than we found it, and I think that highlights the great teamwork, and attitudes we had last weekend. Thank you guys.
With success also comes failure. Yes, we still have all our appendages, but what surprised me was how little interest we had in the class. I visioned my email getting cluster bombed and hearing "you have, twenty, three, new voicemails" each day. I went so far as to make an online registration for the class! I've been wrong before. Nothing new here folks. This year we identified small forest landowners on map who we thought would benefit from a SAWW course, and mailed each of them flyers. This strategy of "targeted marketing" was picked up during a Tools for Engaging Landowners Effectively (TELE) workshop. And yes, our attempt didn't work.
Failure is unfortunate, but it should also be celebrated and shared. These "teachable moments" as my father calls them are "building blocks for future success."Celebrated because when you're at the bottom you can only go up, shared so other practitioners don't make the same mistake - or at least call me to see what we did first. The participants who did register for the class attended with the good old fashion power of word of mouth. So keep talking to your neighbors. If you took the class, offer to help them out. Maybe Marty will finally get those trees removed and the benefit will extend to his neighbor next door.
Special thanks to Ruth for the generous donation of our outdoor classroom, and Bob for helping chip three giant piles of tree limbs.