YCC members learn chainsaw operation, care as part of community project

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Youth Conservation Corps members Mark Goldtooth, left, and Lance Joe remove a bush as part of a training exercise in Bloomfield on Thursday.

BLOOMFIELD — The latest group of Youth Conservation Corps members were busy inspecting and cleaning chainsaws inside the Bloomfield Fire Department station here on Thursday.

Their action is part of training they received this week to learn how to handle, use and maintain chainsaws.

They will use their new skills to remove vegetation and debris from irrigation canals in Shiprock starting on Monday.

Training was conducted by members of the San Juan County Fire Department and the Los Pinos Fire Protection District in Ignacio, Colorado. The instructors followed standards practiced by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group to teach the class.

David Vega, division chief for the county fire department, said the group learned how to use and operate chainsaws as well as basic maintenance, cutting techniques and safety.

The training is the first partnership between the county fire department and the program.

"It's kind of a win-win for both agencies. We're giving these folks some tools and some training for further down the line," Vega said adding such training could lead to jobs in fire mitigation.

It could also generate interest to become volunteer firefighters, he said.

Corps members also learned about workplace responsibility and communication during the week-long session.

"As instructors, we want to make sure that we're not only instructing to what the book requires us to teach. We want to make sure that we're giving them life skills to succeed out in the real world," Vega said.

Youth Conservation Corps members attended training this week in Bloomfield to learn chainsaw handling and care.

On Thursday afternoon, the group demonstrated their skills by clearing bushes, trees and weeds from an area owned by the City of Bloomfield.

They also used tools to cut vegetation and worked in teams to remove discarded greenery.

"They need to demonstrate to the instructors that they can safely operate the chainsaw and that they can safely use the chainsaw in a matter to cut brush and cut the trees down," Vega said.

Cornie Florez is the progress director for Capacity Builders Inc., the Farmington-based nonprofit organization that oversees and coordinates the youth work program.

Youth Conservation Corps members learned about chainsaw safety and maintenance as part of training this week at the Bloomfield Fire Department station.

Capacity Builders collaborates with communities on the Navajo Nation to develop projects for corps members.

The corps members gain experience while improving the community by completing projects such as gardens, obstacle courses, trails and parks, Florez said.

The group is working with Shiprock Chapter and the tribe's Shiprock Irrigation to ease the delivery of water to farms by removing vegetation and debris from the canals.

In addition to receiving training, participants receive hourly pay that starts at $9.50, Florez added.

"They gain the community aspect, they gain training and they earn their wage, so they can take care of themselves financially for a little bit," she said.

Youth Conservation Corps member Mark Goldtooth uses a lopper to cut down a tree in Bloomfield on Thursday.

Over the course of the project, the group will complete 12 training sessions.

Shiprock resident Sanchez Curley said the training he received this week will add to his resume.

"I'm getting the hang of it," Curley said during a break from chain sharpening.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

San Juan County Fire Department Division Chief David Vega shows Youth Conservation Corps member Sanchez Curley how to check the blade on a chainsaw on Thursday at the Bloomfield Fire Department station.