Check, check, check it out

Lately we have had some great dialog on the site about saws. It gave us an idea for another topic. What are everyone’s thoughts about daily saw check outs? Do you check them everyday? Do you run them at full throttle? Do you run them unloaded? (not actually cutting anything) How long do you run them for? We are in the process of doing research about this topic from many sources (manufacturers, dealers, maintenance personnel.) We will of course do a full write-up on our findings as soon as we are complete. Leave comments below about your thoughts and current practices regarding saw checkouts.


31 Comments so far

  1. bryan March 1st, 2007 9:38 am



  2. Bryan March 1st, 2007 2:24 pm

    We run our saws at the start of the morning and afternoon tours. We use Partner Saws 950’s and 1250’s. We carry 3 saws on the trucks. 2 set up for metal and one set up for the roofman with a carbide 12 or 24 tooth. We run them at full throttle for apporx 30 secs and then let them idle down and shut off. We check the fuel everytime and top it off as needed. It is good to know your equipment inside and out. You should be able to start that saw with a blind fold on. You have to make sure that your equipment runs well. Regardless of how busy you are, your equipment always needs to be checked.
    Tower Ladder 23

  3. Mike March 1st, 2007 3:35 pm

    Let me first start off by explaining a little about my department. We are a combination department with career firefighters Monday through Friday from 6a-6p. Our volunteer firefighters still respond during the day when needed, and all night time hours. The volunteer companies also run a duty crew once a week from 6p-12mid., all nights are covered except Sunday. Our career members do truck checks on all apparatus and equipment every week. During my companies duty crews we check fuel levels and start all saws. Once the saw is started we run it full throttle for about 30 seconds, and then let them idle for about a minute. It is important to note we never “run them like a dirt bike” and throttle them up and down constantly. Since doing the saw checks before each duty crew, we have found that the saws start easier and the members are more comfortable operating and maintaining the saws.

    Deptford Fire Department – Battalion 3
    Deptford, NJ

  4. Pete March 1st, 2007 9:06 pm

    We used to run them daily and on the advice of our Logistics Division it was changed to every Monday. They are run unloaded, high idle for 20-30 sec. and then at idle for 3-5 minutes.

  5. John March 1st, 2007 9:08 pm

    Everythihg so far sounds great but after starting your saws let them idle for 30+ seconds before revving up to allow the interior moving parts to get lubed then rev up at increasing intervals. Of course allow the unit several moments of idle before shutting off.

    Gainesville Fire Rescue
    G-ville, Fl.
    Tower 1

  6. Dave March 1st, 2007 10:03 pm

    Whats up everyone.
    My name is Dave and I am from a volunteer company out of Westchester N.Y. We cover a little town named Croton-on-Hudson. We have an engine which runs R.I.T. calls and we house an EchoVentSaw, a K-950, and a Stihl TS-400. We typically run our saws every monday night when we do our regular rig check of all our other equipment. Since I work with chain saws and cut down trees, it’s usually my job to check and make sure the saws work on monday nights and anytime we’re going to need them. It’s my practice to start the saws and like John from Gainesville has stated let them idle for about 30 seconds. Then I usually run them with the throttle 1/2 way in for about a minute. Afterwards I let them run for another 10 minutes or so. It’s not a good practice to run any saw full throttle while it’s not bearing any load blade. These types of practices will easily burn out the motor ruin your saws.

  7. Chris March 2nd, 2007 1:38 am

    Its a weekly check for us to run them, but most drivers at my station start after roll call. We check fuel, bar oil, chains and belts, and blades. We run them wide open for about 10 sec. and then idle for about 30 sec. We run the Stihl chainsaw, and a Partner 1250 set up for metal cutting, and a Husqy set up with a carbide tipped blade.
    Truck 13 “The Show”

  8. 52Capt. March 2nd, 2007 7:51 am

    As stated above, I don’t think it is good for the saw to start running at high idle before the interior parts have a chance to be lubed. Think about it for a moment, would you cold start your car and hold it at high idle until it is warm? Just can’t see where that can be good on the engine. I like to start the saw and allow it to low idle for 30 or more seconds and the high idle for another 30 seconds, unloaded, then allow another 3/5 minutes at idle. again guys, Thanks for the site. Great place to share ideas. Be Safe.

  9. Mr. Jiggy-Fly March 2nd, 2007 11:36 am

    We run (2) Partner 950’s (1 set up with a carbide-tipped 24 tooth blade, and 1 with an aluminum oxide blade) and (2) Jonsered chain/vent saws with bullet chains on the truck companies; each engine company has a smaller standard chain saw for forestry & utility usage.

    Our department policy is to run all the power equipment weekly, on Sunday mornings, with no clear direction on what the check will include. That being said, some of us run all the power equipment every shift, as described by others above.

    The only thing I would add is that I like to physically pick up the saws and run them in various positions that they might be used (IE – vertical, cradled, etc.). I’m sure we’ve all had a saw assigned that was “scared of heights” (runs fine on the ground, but never on the roof) or had some other idiosyncrasy.

    Also, we have a guy on our job who runs a small engine company and contracts with alot of departments to do all their maintenance; he recommends against the bullet chains as they are unreasonably expensive. He buys carbide-tipped chain by the reel and makes chains to fit for about 75% savings, even replacing after every usage.

    Be safe Brothers.

  10. Mike March 2nd, 2007 1:48 pm

    We have an Echo 6700 and I run the saw every morning after roll call.

    Garner FD L-1

  11. chris March 2nd, 2007 7:13 pm

    We run the saws on our truck during our weekly check on Mondays. We Have a two Partner saws, one with a Warthog blade, which coicidently cuts like a hot knife through butter, and a second saw with a masonry blade. We also have a Stihl circular saw with a steel blade on it (Stihl saw = steel blade, makes it a little easier to remember)Also carry a Cutter’s Edge and a Stihl chain saw. After physically checking the saws, I start them, let them idle, then run the throttle up and let them idle back down. There is no set SOP on how to check them, just from past experience. Stay Safe


  12. Steve P March 2nd, 2007 9:45 pm

    OK, We do like everyone else, start, idle, higher speed, the idle, wipe off, and replace.

    Someone on here brought up the best point that I feel is often overlooked with the probies/rookies. SaW maintence how do you clean it, and what is provided by your dept to clean.

    Also, do you younger(no offense) less experienced(mechanically) guys know about tearing the saw apart, cleaning, and putting back together and adjusting the chains? What is you protocol?

  13. Garrett Rice March 3rd, 2007 4:51 pm

    I start our saws every shift. We run Partner and Stihls. I have found that if you run it every shift you dont have the problems of them not starting onscene. I have after the last fire figured out that some of the guys were unaware about maintenance, tearing it down and cleaning them up as well as how many teeth could be missing in order to take it out of service. We have since had an informal class and are guys are up to speed. Also we store our saws in the start position so that when it is 3am it takes one pull to get the pop and is easy to do with gloves and limited visibility. Before working here I ran a saw on a wildland crew in Cali and figured out real fast that if you dont take care of these things that when you hike in 3 miles and that saw wont start that it is now just a heavy weight to carry. Be safe Brothers,
    Eng Co 1/Med Co 1
    Rowlett Fire, Texas

  14. Jack March 3rd, 2007 5:04 pm

    We start our saws at the beginning of every day after roll call. They are treated as part of the outside vent man’s tool assignment and are his (along with the truck chauffeur’s) tools for the shift since he and the chauffeur are the outside team of our Truck.

    They are started in similar fasion as stated above only are not idled for a full 30 seconds. We idle them until they “level out” or are running smooth on their own (usually about 15 seconds) We then bring them up to full throttle, until they are running and sounding smooth (ususlly another 15-30 seconds), then they are allowed to return to idle. This process may be repeated and we also may find some scrap lying around to cut (pallets, demo materials, scrap steel etc.) We also check to make sure that the blade of the k-12 saw STOPS COMPLETELY under idle, since this ensures that the belt is adjusted properly, we will adjust if needed.

    Keep in mind that the newer partner (650, 950, 1250) saws have overspeed govenors to keep them from over-reving, so I disagree with not running them at full throttle. I have also been taught that a proper blade attached to a properly-tuned up saw can be run at full throttle without a load, since the blade is enough of a load for the motor. Running a saw full throttle without a blade (should NEVER be done) is where over-reving becomes a problem.

    I also have never heard any reason for NOT running the saws as often as possible, as long as they are run and maintained properly. I was assigned to another truck that ran the saws twice a day at minimum, to keep them “warm” and always ready to go and we never had any problems with this practice.

    ALSO REMEMBER: USE AND CHANGE OUT THOSE SILICONE CARBIDE BLADES OFTEN!!! The more you drill with them the more you replace them with new blades. Was on a job recently where the 2nd due truck had their aluminum oxide blade disinegrate when attempting to make a cut. NO ONE on the truck had any idea of the age of the “never been used” blade! Unacceptable! These blades DO NOT have an unlimited shelf life when exposed to the various elements in an enclosed rig compartment!! (fumes, road vibrations etc)
    Stay safe all….great discussion.

  15. Tom March 4th, 2007 2:02 pm

    Our practice is, at the begining of the shift we check off all three saws. Blade, Fuel, and general condition are checked every day. We run them unloaded approx. 30 secs. and allow them to run idle for a few minutes. I feel that not all members know the signs of blade and chain wear and should be thoroughly trained to look for the signs. I agree with the FDNY truckman, all truck members should be able to start and run saws blindfolded. Like the old adage, Practice makes Perfect.
    Roanoke City
    1 Ladder

  16. Chris March 5th, 2007 12:50 pm

    As for our saws, I wanted them started everyday and of course guys complained stating we were wasting fuel, ruining the saw, etc… So now we run them on a weekly check. Since they aren’t run everyday, I am trying to get them to run until the engine warms up or roughly 5 minutes.

  17. Mike March 5th, 2007 4:19 pm

    Per SOG’s Monday is the day we run/check all of the equipment on the truck. That being said, we start the saws daily in the morning. We noticed that when crews would just start the saw up then shut it off we started having problems with the carburetors. Now we let it idle for a few minutes after running it full throttle for 15-30 seconds.
    We also have so many new employees that are straight out of the academy that recently the training division came out to each station and went over maintenance, changing blades/chains and even proper fuel mixture. It sounds basic but it is something that needs to be done with the new personnel either from the training division or at the compnay officer level.

  18. John Mogan March 6th, 2007 10:33 pm

    My name is John and I am assigned to a Truck Company on Chicago FD. We have 2 partner 950 saws. 1 with a wood blade and 1 with a composite blade.Saws are checked at the start of every tour (24 hours) It is the responsibility of the roof team to check them.When I start them and let them idle for 30 seconds first before reving them at top speed for 60 seconds. The reason for this is when you get in your car do you floor it as soon as you start it? Someone mentioned in an earlier post”let the inner parts get lubricated” or something to that effect.

    Just my 2 cents.

  19. Aaron March 7th, 2007 11:34 am

    We’re suppose to do “rig” checks daily in my department. Not only the rig but any other equipment carried ont he rig is suppose to be checked, i.e saws, generators, tools, etc… I’m assigned to a tower ladder we carry a 950 with a carbide blade, a 750 with a metal blade, a Cutters Edge with a bullet chain, and a Stihl 600 series. I usually let saws run at an idle for a minute and then at full throttle for 30 seconds and then let them idle for another minute. It’s always a good peice of mind to make sure your equipment works before you need it. I also think that a saw will start quicker/better when needed if it was ran beforehand. Oh yeah don’t forget those decompression buttons on the saw…make sure they’re depressed after running the saws…some of our guys forget.

    Tower 18
    Lebanon Bureau of Fire

  20. Pete W March 11th, 2007 10:08 pm

    We run our saws once a week if they don’t see normal work during that week. We also check the bar lug nuts for tightness, belts for wear etc. It is important to also remember that the oil and gas mix will separate in the saw tank if it is not aggitated in some manner frequently. MTBE and other winter additives from the gas manufacturer will separate 2 cycle oil from the gas if let stand still for a long period of time. If it does separate, the saw will fire on gas only and wear away the cylindar walls over time making the saw useless. You can visually inspect part of the cylinder wall by taking off the exhaust muffler and looking at the piston throught the exhaust port in the head. Also on chainsaws, avoid using a standard wood cutting chain on asphalt shingles. The chain is not designed for that type of cutting application and may break injuring the operator. The reason I write this is that many younger FF’s grab the wrong saw for the job. See ya on the street!

  21. Pete W March 11th, 2007 10:19 pm

    I’ll add another thought. Don’t store composite blades in the same compartment as the gas. Companies who may use the saw less frequently than other busier departments may experience softening of the composite blades due to gas vapors or spashing on the blade disk itself. Also, the manufacturers of partner saws and chainsaws reccommend testing the saws to “operating temperatures” which means a different start up and run time in different areas. My experience, as on other post, has it is to start the saw to idle, then after three throttle bursts(quick squeeses) bring the saw up to speed, not full throttle, for a few seconds. Don’t run the saw balls to the wall at first pull. The goal for shift start ups is to see if the saw fires up, to see if it goes to idle, to see if the cutter turns and operates and to see if anything loose falls off from the previous shift.

  22. Drew Smith March 13th, 2007 12:35 am

    Drivers may start our saws daily if they choose but are not required. On our weekly checks, each saw is to be started, operated, fuel, oil and chain/blade checked/adjusted. Our squad, engines and truck each have two saws: One chain and one circular. All saws are Stihls. The circular saws are TS760s and TS510(?_I’m writng this from home). We keep different baldes on each saw, dependingon the vehicle it is assigned to.
    The squad has a diamond-coated wheel good for light metals, masonry and supposedly wood. The engines has abrasive wheels as they mainly use the circualr saw for forcible entry. The truck has a 24-tooth carbide tipped blade. We also have a Warthog blade available but the guys do not like it as thier first choice-I’m not sure why. We also have a have a circualr saw on our Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting vehicle and it is set up with a diamond-coated wheel for fuselage cutting.

    Our chain saws are all standard non-fire service saws with regular chains. All have fairly large motors. We have used the regualr chains on shingle roofs for about 15 years with little problems. We wind up sharpening/replacing the chain after every roof job. One chain is only good for 2 house fire holes. However, at a cost of around $15 versus nearly $200 for a carbide chain, we carry several spares and have not had to do a field change out except on extended operations. It helps that we have four companies with saws so each gets some work.

  23. Tasmo250 March 13th, 2007 10:15 am

    We’ve been unable to find any documentation that says storing composite blades in the same compartment as the gas cans will ruin the blades. As best we can tell, it’s an old wive’s tale. Has anyone out there been able to find anything on this?

  24. jeff March 13th, 2007 12:31 pm

    I am currently working on a series of articles pertaining to saws and saw use. The first portion is common saws and their tech data. We will then look into saw use and maint. as well as daily checks. Blade use selection and care and maint. issues will also be included in this series. Please keep visiting we are finalizing the first portion and hope to get it out soon. Thanks Jeff Ponds

  25. Mike Cody March 13th, 2007 9:19 pm

    I work at full paid department that carries Stihl saws, chain and rotary. The chain saws have carbide tipped chains and the rotary’s are a mix of oxide and Warthog blades (I’m thinking of trying a MK Tiger Blade on the rotary). We run our saws everyday. If you talk to the folks that use 2 cycle equipment everyday it makes sense. Who’s chain saws work the best, the landscape people or your dads saw that sat on the shelf and the one time you needed it, it wouldn’t start for you. We start them and let them idle for 2-3 minutes, to get up to operating temp., then run them at high throttle for about 30 seconds, then let them idle for about 2-3 more minutes then shut them down. I belive in running them at high throttle for about 30 seconds because a 2 cycle engine is designed for this, unlike a 4 cycle engine, and if you don’t run it at full throttle you don’t know if it’s tuned right (I worked as a small engine tech for 3 years). I also belive in letting the saw run for at least a total of 4-5 minutes to let all parts of the saw get hot enough to burn out any condensation it formed while warming up. In letting it idle for 2-3 minutes after running it at full throttle you help reduce the chance of “loading” the cylinder with fuel, from the high throttle, and causing spark plug problems. This seems to work well for us. Be safe and remember to share the knowledge.
    Mike Cody, Captain
    Truck 123
    Coppell, Texas

  26. sixfoothook March 16th, 2007 6:41 am

    Has anybody heard anything wether negative or positive about letting a sthil chain saw iddle with the brake on? just thiught i would ask seems like i saw something once that said not to but i am not sure.

  27. Chris March 16th, 2007 1:35 pm


    Stihl doesn’t recommend running a saw with the brake on, either does cutters edge as a matter of fact. We have both on our department. After replacing oiler gears on the cutters edge due to people starting and running the saws with them on I called the mfg. They stated along with Stihl’s manual stating, it can cause damage to the clutch housing, oiler pump and the brake itself. The chain brake is for emergency use only. It is really a kickback brake to stop the chain as the bar is coming at you. This is a basic breakdown of what the mfg states. Best thing to do is call you local distributor or read the manual. Good luck, Be safe

  28. Aaron June 7th, 2007 9:10 am

    I’ll be damned if I am going to pull up on the scene of a working fire or other incident and pull a saw (or any other piece of equipment) off of my truck and have it not work or run out of gas at the most in opportune time because I or my crew did not perform the checks. We check everything in the morning. Every piece of equipent we have from the tic to the PW can. How many of you check your pressue water can every shift? you should. Department policy for my department is to only check our ladder opperations on friday to keep the hours down. My driver refused to do that when I informed him of the change because he doesnt want any surprises at two in the morning when we need the bucket. I support him and defend him on this. Sorry for the rambling, we check everything everymorning and after every run because lives depend on it and it is our job. Be safe…


  29. WILSON June 8th, 2007 6:27 pm

    Hey guys i am from a very small volunteer department were myslef and a captian are paid. we do are checks every other day and run the half throttle for about 20 seconds and than let the idle for about a minute. but i have a question for yall and hope yall can answer it for me. what are some good leanth bars for ventalation? if you could answer these i would be most greatfull. you can e-mail me at
    John Wilson
    Ester volunteer Fire Dept.

  30. Jeff Ressler July 20th, 2007 3:38 pm

    I finally got our Maintenance Officer to agree to daily chainsaw operations. I have worked part-time in small engine repair for over twenty years as well as being a career firefighter for 24 years. Some of the biggest reasons to run your saws daily are as follows. 1. Your people become more familiar and comfortable with the saws. 2. Gasoline has a shelf life of only 30 days without some sort of fuel stabelizer added. (using up your fuel will be very helpful in assuring fresh fuel all the time) I will disagree with statement that running cold saw at full throttle does not allow for proper lubrication. The fuel itself carries the oil to lubricate the engine If its running it is immediately lubricated and there is always a residual amount of oil that coats the cylinder wall after operating the saw.

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