Anvil Builders Blends “Men and Machines” for Maximum Results


The right combination of skills, knowledge, and equipment can transform the toughest job site into a success story. One of those stories is Anvil Builders and the company’s ability to help areas get life back to normal after the devastation from wildfires.

Cleanup after the Bay Branch wildfires south of San Francisco in 2020 presented a unique set of challenges: hazardous terrain, toxic substances from burned structures, and washed-out roads and mudslides in the middle of the rainy season. It was important to remove materials quickly and efficiently to prevent contamination of the environment and nearby communities.

Anvil Builders completed the project successfully, safely, and on time.

“We’ve assembled a seasoned team of industry professionals with decades of experience,” said Richard Leider, founding partner and CAO. “We actively train and mentor at all levels to ensure we have the right people to drive our projects forward and continue to be best in class.” The health and safety of those people is Anvil’s top priority, which goes hand in hand with identifying the best method to get jobs done safely and efficiently.

California’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) awarded Anvil Builders the US$244 million ($334 million) contract for fire debris and hazard tree removal from more than 1,000 damaged properties. Anvil’s team began work in December 2020, building temporary replacements for burned-out bridges, improving roads to reach remote mountainous properties, and felling trees that were a risk to critical infrastructure and people.

“It was spread out over 5 counties,” said Eric Damron, general superintendent for Anvil. This increased the need to coordinate efforts to be safe and efficient. “There wasn’t much cell service, so you couldn’t talk throughout the day. It was in the mountains and road conditions were hazardous. People were living in isolation.”

Anvil Builders used a variety of machines including SENNEBOGEN 718M E and 728M E machines for the Bay Branch project.

“Our SENNEBOGEN Tree Care handlers were able to minimize exposure to safety risks. We were able to reduce the crew size because they were multi-purpose,” said Mr. Damron. “The 15- to 20-m reach for material meant we could dismantle a tree safely. It was huge. On a good day, we were able to remove 500 to 700 trees.”

Several features of the machines enabled crews to work around existing trees, power lines, mountainous terrain, structures, and devasted landscape. The reach, with the K13 boom and stick set-up, 2 m telescoping arm, and elevating cab increased effectiveness and safety. Operators could work at a safe distance with clear visibility.

The SENNEBOGEN machines can grab, cut, move, and stack tree sections more efficiently than conventional techniques. With bullet-proof glass in front of them, operators have good sightlines from inside the cabs, improving productivity and safety. Having no one on the ground in the fall zone was another asset.

The machines are also low-weight and compact, making them easier to move into locations.

The elevated cab on the 728M E provides a viewing height up to 6 m and can be tilted up to 30°, guaranteeing good sightlines. A roof and windshield guarding over the bullet-proof glass maximizes the protection

Originally, the project was scheduled for completion in May 2021. However, CalOES issued Anvil Builders a US$70 million ($96 million) change order to expand operations to include several state parks and regional summer camps, including Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Eric Damron said the state parks were a challenge on their own, “a job within a job”. They included lodges, maintenance buildings, homes, and trees. Some buildings had historical significance. Across 5 counties, hundreds of properties needed to be cleared. Each area presented unique conditions: different tree species, terrain, and logistical challenges.

Working in remote areas also presented challenges in maintenance and safety. SENNEBOGEN’s UPtime Kits provide parts and equipment for operators to repair on-site.

“When you are a few hours away from a mechanic, all our operators are trained on how these machines work and how to work on them,” said Hayden Vreeburg, equipment manager. “The machines are very reliable, but sometimes you have damage from a limb falling. The SENNEBOGEN parts and service departments are really great. Having SENNEBOGEN in the U.S. means if you need something, it’s only a day or 2 away. This is a big asset that helped to keep our projects on time.”

Over 10 months, crews from Anvil Builders safely took down more than 25,000 trees, many of them redwoods and Douglas firs. Nearly 450,000 t of fire debris was trucked to end-use facilities, often over narrow, winding backroads. More than 100,000 labor hours were logged with zero recordable injuries.


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