National Wildfire Coordinating Group

RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)

Felling Hazard Trees: Does it Need to Come Down?

RT-130 Decorative banner. Group of photos depicting wildland firefighters performing various duties.

This video promotes dialogue among sawyers and fireline leaders about their ability to discuss and identify expectations and decisions to cut or leave a tree, understand the human factors that influence the decision-making process, and bring awareness to the option that every saw operator has a right to walk away from a tree.
Category: Hazards
Core Component(s): Local Topics;
Incident Reviews and Lessons Learned

Estimated Delivery Time: 45 minutes; Video Length: 13:50



Create a dialogue among sawyers and fireline leaders about their ability to discuss and identify expectations and decisions to cut or leave a tree. Understand the Human Factors that influence the decision-making process and bring awareness to the option that every saw operator has a right to walk away from a tree.​

Facilitator Preparation

  • Review the video and module tools.
  • Decide which questions will best fit the skill level of the session audience.
  • Consider additional activities and discussion questions pertinent to the location and agency.

Facilitating the Discussion

  • Show the video.
  • Share the intent of the module with the class.
  • Facilitate a small or large group discussion using the selected discussion questions.

Discussion Questions

  1. Define a hazard tree. Is a dead, standing, ember-receptive tree a hazard tree? Do your perceptions of a hazard tree change from hotline construction to mopup? What about from direct line construction to indirect?
  2. What compels us to make the decision to cut the tree in front of us? (Examples include module/crew standard operating procedures [SOPs], personal skills, incident objectives, fireline supervisor, and fireline production rate pressures.)
  3. Which fireline positions make decisions about what trees need to come down? While on fire assignments, do your fireline supervisors (Operations Section Chief, Division Supervisor, Task Force Leader, Strike Team Leader, etc.) provide their tree removal expectations?
  4. Do you have adequate training for the cutting assignment? What influences your decision to walk away/turn down a cutting assignment?  Does your supervisor support you in making these decisions on your own?
  5. What are the key components that must be identified when determining the complexity of a saw operation? How do you determine what level of certification or skill set is needed to safely fell or buck a tree?
  6. If you start cutting a tree and the tree hangs up, what do you do?
  7. Do all hung trees need to be removed?  What influences your decision?
  8. What are the alternatives to cutting down a tree?
  9. Describe a close call you have had with saw work and how it has changed your perception of risk. Looking back, what could have been done to mitigate that close call?
  10. Does your module, team, or crew have SOPs for hazard trees, hung-up trees, alternatives to cutting high complexity trees, and tree turn-down protocols?
  11. Have you seen a change in how the fire service is dealing with tree stand health and hazard trees?
  12. During your fire career, have you heard this statement, “once you put your saw in a tree, it's all yours until it's on the ground.” If so, how do you feel about that statement today?


  • Please utilize the PROVIDE FEEDBACK button located at the bottom of the page to provide feedback.
  • The Hazard Tree and Tree Felling Subcommittee is going to create another Hazard Tree module. Please let us know how feel about this video, as well as other issues and topics you would like to see addressed in the future.


Video Information

This video is also available as a download. (Size 977 MB)

Download the .srt file for closed captioning (you may need to Right Click and Save As). For information on how to add closed captioning to a video, see this how to page.

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