On Saturday, July 11, 2015, ~20 volunteers gathered in the Hilltop Road neighborhood, southwest of the Coal Creek Canyon K-8 School, to lend a hand to perform “phase 1” fire mitigation on two properties.  This included felling trees and stacking slash in preparation for the August 9th, 2015 Coal Creek Canyon Saws and Slaws event where the primary focus will be chipping all of the slash.  This event was put together in just a few days and about one month in advance of the original plan, but our core Saws and Slaws team, with the help of some of the Hilltop Road neighbors, and our Americorp volunteers, pulled this event off to make it a success.

This was the final Saws and Slaws event for our Americorp volunteers, who graduate from their program on Friday, July 24th, 2015.  Lauren Buczynski, Nicholas Hunter, Connor McNulty, and Reilly Starrett achieved the 20 hour requirement and will be awarded with their own Saws and Slaws t-shirts.  We are deeply appreciative of the work of these dedicated youth this summer and will miss them.

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Key lessons learned from this event focused on the safety of our volunteers and can be shared forward for future events in all locations.  Primarily, it is important for all volunteers, whether sawyer or swamper, to wear protective headgear.  Saws and Slaws has a collection of helmets for all volunteers to wear during the events and kindly asks that volunteers please wear the helmets provided.  Secondly, due to the tall grass that was present in select areas, it was difficult for individuals working on the sites to be able to see the debris that was buried beneath the grass.  One of our sawyers tripped on hidden debris and fell while holding a chain saw that was running.  Yikes!  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  The lesson learned is that all grass in the work area needs to be cut to a minimum of 6 inches with absolutely no debris under foot that could pose a tripping hazard or the potential hazard of accidentally placing debris in the chipper.  This will be assessed in future site visits and work will not be approved to start until the proper precautions have been taken by the property owners.  The third lesson learned was hydration, hydration, hydration.  Our bodies depend on water to survive.  Every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies needs water to work correctly.  We lose water each day, even when we breathe.  We lose water faster when the weather is hot and we are physically active.  This season we started to take a break after two hours of work for focused hydration.

“Why is community service important?  Saws and Slaws thrives under the motto of ‘Building a Stronger Community Through a Healthier Forest’.  The top three reasons to volunteer, per the University of California San Diego, are 3.  You get a chance to give back.  People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit people they care about.  2.  Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.  Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.  It is a way to actively say, “You matter to me and to our community.”  1.   You make a difference!  Every person counts.  Without volunteers, community would not be built.