Throw Back to Basics: Chain Saw Check

By Brian Zaitz

The chain saw is a common tool found on many fire apparatus across the country. Whether it is used for ventilation, wildland fire attack, or debris removal, the chain saw is essential in assisting with various fire service operations. As with any tool, the key to success is operational excellence with the unit and the user. To ensure the proper operations of the unit, it is important that is gets the attention it deserves.

To begin a chain saw check, start by looking at the chain. The chain serves as the cutting surface for the tool and will determine success or failure with its operations. Ensure that the teeth are sharp and intact; no more than two teeth in a row or more than 25 percent of the teeth are damaged. If this is the case, replace the chain.


Also, check to ensure that the chain is tight to the bar. The chain should not be loose or hanging below the bar, and it should not be so tight that it causes unnecessary friction and binding. To check, pull gently on the chain, it should slightly pull away from the bar. If it needs to be tightened, follow the normal procedures for your specific saw; many have a tightening screw on the body that makes this operation very simple.

Check that the fluids are topped off. The bar oil should be full; this will reduce friction and allow for proper operation of the saw during the alarm. Fuel should be checked, and make sure the proper fuel is added. Most saws operate off a gas/oil mix, so ensure that the appropriate fuel is being added to the saw.

Also check the air filter, ensure that the dust cover is clean, and the filter itself is in good shape and free from debris.

Finally, start the saw and run it. If possible, conduct a quick cut with the tool to familiarize yourself with its operation and put it under a situation that will ensure its operational readiness.

RELATED: Mittendorf on the Rotary Saw vs. the Chain SawAllison on Chain Saws and Vertical VentilationRicci and Norwood on Power Saw Operations

The chain saw is a great tool in the cache of fire equipment. Take some time on your next rotation and show your chain saw a little attention.


Download this training bulletin as a PDF HERE (4 MB).

Brian Zaitz Brian Zaitzis a 15-year student of the fire service and the Captain-Training Officer with the Metro West Fire Protection District. Zaitz is also an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC , an instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy, and the Board of Director with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He has several degrees including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelor’s in fire science management, and master’s in human resource development. Zaitz is also a credentialed chief training officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence as well as a student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.


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