August 15 began like any other Monday for Journeymen Tree Trimmers Rylan Smith and Chad Bessette and Groundman Seth Blevins, members of the Right-of-Way (ROW) crew.
August 15 began like any other Monday for Journeymen Tree Trimmers Rylan Smith and Chad Bessette and Groundman Seth Blevins, members of the Right-of-Way (ROW) crew. At the Co-op, they went through their daily safety meeting before heading out to work on Tamarack Lane in Columbia Falls. Once on the job site, the crew conducted what they call their tailgate safety meeting – each time the ROW crew arrives at a site, they sign off on the safety plan for the work to be done, such as which trees are being worked on and what equipment is needed.
On this day, due to the heat and the fact that their flatbed work truck was new to this crew, they made it a point to ensure that the pump for the 200-gallon water tank on the truck bed was working. During the summer, crews often work in remote and extremely dry conditions around lots of fuels, so they use trucks with water tanks to wet down parched grasses before starting a task. Smith noted that while crews aren’t trained as volunteer firemen, carrying water is just good common sense, although issues are typically few and far between.
While maintaining the right-of-way on Tamarack, the crew saw a work truck with smoke pouring out of the bed. The driver of the truck pulled over, and Smith followed in his Co-op truck and fired up the pump to the water tank. There was cardboard in the truck bed that had caught on fire, possibly from an errant cigarette butt.
“The driver was pretty stoked that we had a water tank ready to roll,” Smith recalled. “We told him that it was all part of the Co-op’s service, and he laughed and said thank you very much!”
The Co-op completed and implemented the Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP) last year. In addition to multiple daily safety checks, Smith shared that the ROW crew frequently refers to the Situational Awareness tools in the WMP as it maintains the system.
Cheers to the Right-of-Way crew, safety superstars!