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Dangers of trees- Mark Weir knows

Feb. 18, 2014, 2:51 p.m.
Posts: 725
Joined: Aug. 14, 2003

Check the story link below. Mark Weir got smited by a tree. I immediately thought of all the trail-builders out there.

http://reviews.mtbr.com/hot-news-mark-weir-breaks-pelvis-and-sacrum-in-freak-accident

I've seen first hand the energy stored in even a small tree. Put them under tension and you have a recipe for real problems. I know a lot of builders cut trees, but I have yet to meet one that is actually properly trained to do so (ie certified faller or utility arborist). Some of them are really good with their wood, but I've also seen some extremely dodgy saw work and some downright scary stumps. I've seen saws above the head, drinking and cutting, domino falling, and all manners of sins of cutting techniques (just in trailbuilding milieus). To be fair, I've seen a few level-headed folks wield a good saw, but most seem to be flying without a compass.

I figure this belongs in the trail-building section, but it is relevant to all riders. Wier wan't even building, just helping move a tree. Just because a tree is partially fallen or on the ground doesn't make it less dangerous. Partially fallen trees can be under tremendous tension, and may also have dislodged other nearby trees or branches.

Please, take the greatest care when cutting (or moving) wood. If you can, I highly recommend taking a danger tree assessment course, and receiving some professional saw training if you haven't already (but still want to use your saw out in the woods). Remembers anything over 6 inches in diameter (in the workplace) requires a pro to cut it, and even smaller trees than that can kill.
[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]Always have a cleared escape route from a tree you may be cutting
[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]Always have a spotter, first aid, and proper PPE
[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]Always control the scene and make sure nobody can enter the cutting (or falling) area
[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]Always inspect the tree (length of the stem, top, and branches) to detect weak sections, hung-up limbs, and broken tops (we call them widowmakers)
[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]Know that cutting (and falling) is highly technical, and can't be learned on the internet (even from windbags like me), and can't be learned (properly) from your buddies. There's no substituted from learning from a true faller.
[HTML_REMOVED][HTML_REMOVED]Most important, don't cut trees if you don't have to, or you're not qualified to do so.

Sorry for seizing the opportunity to preach, but it would suck so bad to see any trail builder get squashed (or cut). Such an accident would suck for the individual, and could also set off a whole new level of bureaucracy for everyone else that wants to be involved in trail-building. If you ever feel dodgy about a tree, don't be ashamed to flag it off until you can find someone more qualified to manage it with you or for you.

Wishing Weir a speedy recovery. Could have been a lot worse.

Feb. 18, 2014, 7:41 p.m.
Posts: 17769
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

play safe.

more info here on pinkbike

Mark is no stranger to moving trees and cleaning up the trails and neither are his friends. In a pretty standard move they heaved up the portion of tree and started to push it over to the low side of the trail. That is when they heard a snapping and another portion of the tree came down from above. Everyone including Mark scattered, but the tree hit and pinned him to the ground - fracturing his pelvic bone in 3 places and his sacrum in a single place. Mark says it's all kinda like a slide show at that point - people scrambling to remove the tree, but to stabilize him. Knowing where the pain was they knew right away not to try to get him to walk or move for that matter. 6 of his friends went to the bottom and collected plywood to get him out of the woods on as a make shift stretcher. Medics were able to meet them shortly after and get him to a near by hospital.

Feb. 18, 2014, 7:45 p.m.
Posts: 17769
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

another good quote from mudpuppy13

One of my riding companions is my son who is also an arborist. It is a rare ride when his often voiced advice doesn't cross my mind, "look up and live". Winter storms can leave trails a mess of fallen limbs, but best to remember they don't all make it to the ground.

trees don't have to be on the trail to get you. the storms we've been having lately can leave one hanging just overhead and drop it when you least expect it.

Feb. 18, 2014, 8:10 p.m.
Posts: 725
Joined: Aug. 14, 2003

Should probably add, wind is your enemy. For roadies, it's about the headwind. For mountain bikers, wind can bring trees down, or even just the little 100 lb branches which are more than enough to punch your ticket.

If you're doing trail work or riding, and the wind picks up, good idea to leave the woods, especially if you're in an area with any dodgy trees. When the tree tops start swaying a bit, and little pieces of debris (eg leaves or needles) start floating through the air, you are best to be far from the trees. Don't wait to hear things snapping or falling (that's too late).

True story (if I may indulge). My cousin was hiking in Manning when the wind kicked in. A 40 foot douglas fir came down. Missed him. However, it bounced and got him on the roll, flicked him like a bug about 20 feet. He suffered a shattered humerus, major concussion, several broken ribs, and a collapsed lung. He took years to recover, and received a permanent partial limitation in his dominant arm. Suckage. Point is, that it doesn't take a big tree, and it doesn't even need to take you on the noggin. Shi-ite, Wier just got nicked by a branch, and it almost snuffed him.

Can't stay out of the woods altogether, so awareness is key, yes, looking up is smart. Trail builders, the ones I really have in mind, take time to recon your work area. Don't hesitate to pull the plug on a windy day, and pack it in.

Healing vibes to Wier, heads up to everyone else!

Feb. 18, 2014, 8:29 p.m.
Posts: 16284
Joined: March 15, 2003

should have seen syncro in the early days - some people never went out to his trail twice from shear fear

Feb. 18, 2014, 9:26 p.m.
Posts: 18446
Joined: May 29, 2004

should have seen syncro in the early days - some people never went out to his trail twice from shear fear

Lol qft

Feb. 19, 2014, 6:23 a.m.
Posts: 17
Joined: Aug. 6, 2004

I have no idea where you build or the builders you speak of but on Fromme, inside District property no one is building without a permit from the District. The permit which has to be renewed each year with work constantly being monitored throughout the year.

Your description of builders does not represent any of the builders I work with on Fromme. Just because you have yet to meet anyone who is trained and has the tickets does not mean they do not exist.

Come out my way and say hi sometime. I am working most weekends on Fromme. Then you can say you know a builder who has the training with tickets.

Feb. 19, 2014, 9:04 a.m.
Posts: 725
Joined: Aug. 14, 2003

"To be fair, I've seen a few level-headed folks wield a good saw, but most seem to be flying without a compass." - point, never said they didn't exist.

Thanks Silk. Let me be clear. There is no intention to say all trail builders are unfit to use a saw. However, I think you are by and large an exception to the norm. I've searched high and low for a CUA or certified faller who builds trail in my town, and haven't found one yet. I have been on the trail with approximately ten different builders. Not a single one of them was certified, or even properly qualified, yet all of them cut trees at some time. No one likes to talk about it, but it happens all the time. Even though I don't always see them cutting, I see their stumps, and most of them lack the step and holding wood that your picture shows. All of them make an effort to be conscientious and safe, but all of the ones I've interacted with closely (in my albeit limited experience) lacked actual proper training. They all "seemed" and "felt" competent, but that's not always enough to protect people. I had a colleague, 20 years experience in the woods, get snuffed out falling a tree he shouldn't have been touching. However, this was never about challenging anyone's ego (including my own, and I admit I have one too). It is only about looking out for others. If we can encourage a few people to seek out more information (maybe even training), or connect with people that have this training, the thread is a win.

I know there are some truly qualified and competent saw-handlers out there, and even a few CUAs (which you appear to be). I would expect that people working on Fromme, with all the bureaucracy that has surrounded it, would be farther ahead on this than in most places. If you're certified by the board (or Enform) as a faller, even better. People with your skills are often too busy working their other jobs (which are extremely demanding) to have time to work on trails. So it is really good to have you on the trails, and thanks for the work you do out there. If anything, other builders should be deferring to ones such as yourself when there is a (standing or partially suspended) tree to cut. However, deferring to others more qualified is not always a well-ingrained habit among people performing extremely demanding tasks. Probably the best thing about your post is that it shows that there are people out there that are qualified to cut, and others should seek them out if and when they need a hand.

The main point here is to sensitize builders to the dangers of cutting standing (or suspended wood), point out that people (including many that see themselves as competent) get hurt or killed cutting trees far too frequently, and to encourage people to seek out some additional training or find a more qualified person to help them if there is a tree to cut.

I bet you could build a healthy beer and bike part supply out of assisting others with their sticks :)

Feb. 19, 2014, 9:40 a.m.
Posts: 17769
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

I had to drive in my dad's van for a few years with the blood stain on the passenger seat from when he drove our neighbour to the Emerg with his finger in a bag. Chainsaws are not a toy, and I was reluctant to use one until we got basic training from BCIT.

PS - February 1, March 1 and March 22 - $230. Hopefully non students can attend.

http://www.bcit.ca/study/courses/renr1145

Repost I hope someone signs up for.

Feb. 19, 2014, 10:04 a.m.
Posts: 1124
Joined: July 28, 2008

Does anybody know of a non-commercial falling course? Paying $20,000+ for the actual entry level faller training is pretty expensive if you're not making a career of it.

I've watched all the BC Faller Training Standard videos a few times but there is no substitute for hands-on training. A course that covered falling trees over 12" would be interesting.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2Aktms_4Pg

>>---------> (x)
My flickr

Feb. 19, 2014, 10:07 a.m.
Posts: 17769
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

Really? Read the post above you and sign up.

Feb. 19, 2014, 10:13 a.m.
Posts: 1124
Joined: July 28, 2008

I did see your post but I didn't think a $230 entry level chainsaw operators course would cover falling trees over 12".

>>---------> (x)
My flickr

Feb. 19, 2014, 10:21 a.m.
Posts: 17769
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

It covered the basic theory but not the practical over 6". However, depending where you are working, it's likely illegal to fall 12"+ anyway. (Without permits from the landowner)

Feb. 19, 2014, 10:21 a.m.
Posts: 17769
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

But it did cover bucking 12"+ blowdowns.

Feb. 19, 2014, 10:28 a.m.
Posts: 725
Joined: Aug. 14, 2003

That course would be for cutting under 6", or for wood lying flat on the ground. The only courses in BC that teach cutting over 6" (standing or suspended) are those for certified utility arborists, and certified fallers.

Admittedly, a major weak spot in the training systems for cutting trees is that there is no intermediate level of training, say for people that occasionally cut over 6', but for whom cutting is only an occasional task. There is a bit of an all or nothing approach in BC, where the idea is that falling is so dangerous that only fully trained people should do it. WHerea, in Alberta, the Enform course is a fraction of the cost and time demands. Interestingly, an Enform falling ticket is recognized in BC.

A good starting point would be a chainsaw course combined with a danger tree assessment course (DTA). Good thing about DTA is that it can help you recognize problems, and steer away from them before getting in too deep.You can find DTA courses quite easily. Some of them have done their practical day in Stanley Park. The chainsaw course is a great idea too. There are a lot of basics and rules of thumb (or finger) that cannot be over-emphasized. Courses can vary in quality based on instructor and curriculum though, so the best thing you can do is get a recommendation from someone you know who has taken the course. If you have friends in silviculture or harvesting, ask them.

There is a group (a provincial sub-committee that I have some connection to) that is working on developing an intermediate course for occasional cutting. Hard to say how it will unfold, given some of the "all or nothing" approach. If and when it gets off the ground, I will post a link.

It's good to seek more information. There is value in the videos. Another point to make is obviously to avoid cutting trees whenever possible, but I feel like a pompous shit for harping on that any more. Nechako is right about no substitute for hands-on training. So if you know Silk, or know someone that is a certified faller or arborist and works trail, see if you can accompany them to help sometime. Another good starting point.

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