Sawyer mentorship

chain saw mentor

The Information officers on the Sawmill Fire in Arizona created this article and the photos. Not only does it give the outside world a peek into what wildland firefighters actually do (in this case while at the incident base) but it illustrates a great example of firefighters from the Globe Hotshots offering assistance or mentoring others when they have the time on a fire assignment. Firefighting of all types, structure and wildland, is a close-knit community and firefighters will help each other out even if they’re seeing each other for the first time, and knowing they may never meet again. Good job, Globe Hotshots and Wendy Koinva.


When Wendy Koinva started running a chainsaw, the guys on her crew told her it needed a name. “Give it a manly name,” they said. Wendy had another idea.

During the summer, a wildland firefighter spends thousands of hours carrying their pack, swinging their tool, and sleeping in their sleeping bag. Taking ownership of their things is important. If they take care of their gear, then their gear will take care of them. Sawyers have one of the most important and challenging jobs on the fireline. They are often in front, stomping through brush – clearing a safe way for their coworkers, their brothers and sisters, their buddies. If a sawyer is hungry and their saw needs gas, the saw gets fed first.chainsaw mentor

Wendy is a member of the Pima Type 2 Initial Attack Crew which is part of the Salt River Agency Tribal Nations Response Team. She’s been with the crew for two fire seasons. Her coworkers noticed her take an interest in running a saw. They suggested she take part in the tradition, among wildland sawyers, of naming her saw. It’s a way of taking ownership and pride in the job that they do. Wendy chose Pööts’tima, which is Hopi for “Stomping Bear,” because that’s how she sees herself and her saw. They are out in front, ahead of the crew, stomping through the brush and clearing the way.

While Wendy and Pööts’tima were “stomping” the Sawmill Fire, they came across the Globe Hotshots, led by Dean Whitney. Hotshot crews are elite. Hotshot sawyers are among the best at what they do. When Dean heard about Wendy and her saw, he recognized an opportunity for cross-agency mentorship. He invited her to come over to the crew’s buggies for a lesson, and worked with her on maximizing her and her saw’s potential.

Wildland firefighters value duty, respect, and integrity. We can all take a lesson from Globe, Wendy and her Stomping Bear.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Sawyer mentorship”

  1. When I took S-212 refresher last year I brought Fizwizzle and Gatorgoat with me. On another note, years ago while on a detail I worked along side the Globe Hotshots as they labored their way through the loss of a crewmember during a training exercise. They were a fine, upstanding Hotshot crew that successfully took on the challenge of turning the negatives of the situation into the positives of the crew’s future.


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