Families trapped in their homes. Trees falling for days. Unexpected flooding. Cleaning up an area hit by a storm represents one of the most hazardous tasks when working with chainsaws. Statistically, there are more injuries during the cleanup process than during the actual storm.
As a firefighter in a frequently storm-struck part of Mississippi, Woodman Speights has plenty of experience working with chainsaws in the tough conditions following a hurricane or other major weather event. Speights and his colleagues at the Starkville Fire Department are always ready to go to work with their chainsaws close at hand. During his latest storm-related mission, the cleanup work was crucial to get to the emergency situation – a family home hit by a large oak tree.
“We had a call about a large tree coming in through the roof of a house," Speights recalls. "But to get there we had to clear the streets from trees that had fallen all over the place.”
Speight’s crew used their chainsaws to clear the way – a task that included several challenges, including electrical fires, fallen wires and scattered debris.
“The most important thing is to stay calm," Speights says. "If you start doing things without thinking, you'll get hurt."
"And this is a very bad situation to get hurt in,” Speights adds.
Thanks to volunteers who helped remove cut-off limbs and debris, the first part of the cleanup was completed in 30 minutes, giving the firefighters access to the house. That’s when they discovered the crown of the huge tree had completely blocked the hallway, trapping the family in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
“We started by checking the limbs for tension, but there wasn’t any. So we cut off the branches, opening up a path for the family.”