Chainsaw and the fire service (keep it simple)

Chainsaw and the fire service, keep it simple.

When I worked at the Oakland Fire department, we used a large power head, a Stihl 044 and/or MS 440 chain (No special saw… fire service design etc or special fire service chain). Saws were equipped with carbide tip chains using a 404-7 sprocket and .404” 20-inch bar. This set-up is for structure fires only(See below). We bought the Oregon generic carbide tooth semi chisel design in a large roll and made up our own chain. It worked great.

This way we could replace broken teeth and have a chain with a full set of teeth for every fire.  We also sharpened the teeth with a carbide tooth sharpening jig.  They were the saw of choice on every pitched roof op. The OFD regularly does vertically vent roof ops because of a large quantity of balloon frame housing stock.

 Chain of choice (Below)


Bar of choice for the OFD (Below)


Most of the small engine 2-cycle problems are from new blended ethanol gasoline (never had a saw not start or run well when taken care of).  Any saw exposed to an air lean environment like heavy smoke will not run perfMake sure to understand the problem with modern gasoline blends.  Buy non-ethanol blend gasoline for your small power tools, as ethanol attracts water.  Damage to your equipment will result without quick use of ethanol blend fuel both in the saws’ tanks and in storage fuel cans.  This is a major problem for the fire service with limited rapid use of mixed fuel and prolonged storage.  By the way, you can get straight gasoline at most marine gasoline pumps; this is because the water absorption issue is a well known problem in the marine boating community.


Can Ethanol-Free Fuel Save Small Engines?

Any chainsaw chain design, that protects the tooth too much, limits its cutting ability. Most fire service specific designed chain has this problem. You do not need a chain that cuts slow at the cost of preserving teeth. The bullet type chain is in my opinion the worst, almost none of the tooth is exposed the rake is huge and making the tooth almost useless. Sure it will last, but at the cost of functional operation.


Above: Note not only the very large rake but the small amount of cutting edge exposed on the tooth

Think of a chopper blade on a cir-saw, it has a deep gullet to provide both rapid removal of debris and full tooth exposure. Fire service chain saw chain does the opposite of that, there was nothing wrong with generic carbide tooth semi chisel design chain. You can even file the rake down a bit to make it even cut faster.

Please- GO OUT AND TRY IT- buy a generic carbide tooth semi chisel design chain you will be shocked it how it out performs fire service special chain.  I recommend Oregon Chain and make sure not to buy their special fire service chain either.  With increased price and expense does not always come increase performance.  Fire service employees need to know the general physics regarding how tools work as well as proper care and maintenance of equipment.  Only this knowledge will lead to the best and proper tool selection.

Captain Dennis Legear Oakland (CA) Fire Department

8 thoughts on “Chainsaw and the fire service (keep it simple)

  1. Edit….Any saw exposed to an air lean environment like heavy smoke will not run perfectly, keep the wind at your back and the saw out of smoke as much as possible. (This sentence in the article accidentally altered)

    • Dennis, I am having a great deal of trouble finding a Oregon carbide chain roll. Do you guys have a supplier you use?

  2. I would agree 110% with Dennis LeGear’s article at CF Tactics…. the make does not matter as much as the maintenance of your equipment. The biggest issue plaguing fire service 2 stroke engines is the fuel that is in them. Dennis out lined the issues with ethanol perfectly, I would add that ethanol also eats and breaks down rubber gaskets dramatically!! It also attracts water…. water turns into steam… steam in your engine turns back into water… water causes rust and corrosion.

    I had the privilege of taking the Husky saw maintenance program a couple years ago and they spent a full day talking about the damage that saws are going through due to fuel, they said that an average saws life span 10-15 yrs ago was 15-20 yrs…. now a days without proper saw maintenance it has dropped to 5-10 years!! Put proper fuel in your saws, run them often, and change the plugs as part of regular scheduled maintenance.

  3. Beore using a chaonsaw it is important to get instruction from a long
    time user. Not every type of chainsaw is the same and each
    may need different procedures to make sute it stays in good condition for many years to come.
    Ryobi chainsaws have added a new model to their family, tthe cordless chainsaw.

  4. I am looking for a chainsaw repair shop near Schertz, Texas. I have an 18′ Craftsman that I have not used in 3 years


  5. Have any of you ever heard of, or had experience with a battery operated Chainsaw used for vertical ventilation?

Comments are closed.