The sounds and smells are unmistakable. Dust and woodchips fill the air.
Phillip Betthale, Jeff Bertrand and a dozen other students in Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories are learning their level three chainsaw operator certification.
With more federal and territorial dollars pledged for infrastructure projects, First Nations across the N.W.T. are training up.
“Just to have a little bit more knowledge on how to cut trees and which trees are safe to cut,” says Bertrand from Acho Dene Koe First Nation. “It’s essential because a lot of people in Fort Liard have woodstoves that burn wood.”
Bertrand is sinking his teeth in new skills he’ll use everyday in his job with highways dealing with “spring poles” and “leaners.”
“It’s my first time taking this chainsaw course so I am basically learning all my angle cuts and board cut,” says Bertrand. “How to fuel your fuel tank, if you run out of gas make sure you fill your fuel and your oil at the same time. You don’t want it to run out.”
Betthale, who is also from Acho Dene Koe First Nation, is here to get ready for the fire season with the forestry department.
“Twenty years now, never got hurt, knock on wood and um just want to keep it safe keep everyone safe, just learn to work chainsaws safely,” he says.
He says even with years of experience, he knows there’s always something new to learn.
“I learned that carrying your chainsaw you get tired, just back and forth the way you carry it your arms stressed up. If you hold it like this you will get more tired and won’t be able to last as long,” he tells APTN News.
With the border closed with B.C., the Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Aurora College has been offering free training.
Tom Wezelman, who is with the band’s construction company, says many people are taking advantage of the course.
“We usually have a good turn out for training,” he says. “They just did a first aid course, we do online courses like ground disturbance, various different tickets.
“That it will help them get job opportunities, highways, working with oil and gas companies, slashing, and there will be tree triming in town with Northwestel fibreoptic line.”
Students say they’d like to see more courses offered.
“Last year I made a couple of picnic tables just out of chainsaws and there could be more like carpentry work, like make plywood and tables and whatever,” says Betthale of the training in N.W.T.
“You can make anything with chainsaw.”