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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

November 2014

On the Cover:

Sawmills in the Canadian forest industry continued to be active places this fall, thanks to healthy U.S. housing starts—which were recently over the one million mark for the third time this year—and continuing demand for lumber from China, as well as steady demand from other markets. Add to this a lower loonie, and the outlook for the industry looks reasonably bright going into 2015.
(Millyard photo by Tony Kryzanowski)

Fort Nelson wants your sawmill
If you’re looking to set up a sawmill operation, B.C.’s Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and the town of Fort Nelson want to talk to you—and they have a basket of sustainable green timber in their back pocket.

One-two punch in harvesting equipment
B.C.’s Mattey Bros. Logging has a relatively new one-two punch on the harvesting end these days, in the form of a John Deere 959K tracked feller buncher and an 870C Tigercat tracked buncher, and both machines are delivering the goods.

Harvesting trees—and crops
A logging and farming combination approach to business is working well for brothers Marcel and Alain Chalifour of logging contactor Almar Limbing in Saskatchewan, with the brothers sometimes dividing their time between harvesting trees, and crops.

Malakwa mill resurrection
A sawmill in the small B.C. Interior town of Malakwa has been resurrected with some capital—and plenty of hard work—and is now producing green hemlock lumber for the Chinese market.

Ready for Mother Nature
B.C. Interior logging contractor John Himech Logging Ltd has to be ready for whatever Mother Nature sends their way—including wildfires that can throw harvesting schedules out of whack.

Award-winning sawmill partnership
The award-winning Opitciwan sawmill partnership between Resolute Forest Products and the Atkamekw Council of Obedjiwan Quebec First Nations stands out as a model for other First Nations/forest industry partnerships across Canada.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions…

The Last Word
Jim Stirling talks about how B.C.’s Forest Practices Board keeps an eye on the forests.

DEPARTMENTS

New & Noted: at Timber Processing and Energy Expo in Portland, Oregon

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John Himech Logging LtdReady for Mother Nature

B.C. Interior logging contractor John Himech Logging Ltd has to be ready for whatever Mother Nature sends their way—including wildfires that can throw harvesting schedules out of whack.

By Jim Stirling

Part of the job appeal for many logging contractors is not knowing what each new day will deliver and having to adjust accordingly on the fly.

But wildfires are a complication loggers can do without. They happen most seasons, in varying degrees of severity. But their impacts on the landscape and all it supports are always profound, especially when tinder dry timber and strong summer winds create a firestorm.

That’s what happened in August 2014 with the China Nose wildfire, a lightning- triggered blaze about 15 kilometres southwest of the town of Houston, in west central British Columbia. The fire spread rapidly toward homesteads and settlements. Regular log harvesting operations in the area were suspended and it was all hands—and machines—on deck as required.

“It got pretty tense,” recalls Lorne Himech, whose office and shop for John Himech Logging Ltd., was right across Highway 16 from a marshalling area set up to help co-ordinate the forest fire fighting strategy. Lorne Himech is partner and general manager with John Himech Logging.

John Himech Logging LtdWhen the fire was contained and the smoke had cleared both literally and figuratively, it was back to the challenges of running a log harvesting operation. But the wildfire had left more than hot spots. It had thrown the planned harvesting schedules out of whack. The preferred staggered log harvesting phases were disrupted. Himech reckons he and some of his crews lost about 20 days through fire danger Class Five closures—and that is from only a short two-month long summer logging season for some harvesting phases.

Thus it was when Logging & Sawmilling Journal visited a site near the Morice River valley southwest of Houston, the logging crews had only recently moved in to the approximately 35,000 cubic metre block.

And consequently it was a pretty busy place. “I’m sorry about that,” said Himech. “Our operations are usually better organized.” In fact, though, it was all proceeding safely and smoothly and settling down well.

Timber on the block was approximately 80 per cent dry pine, up to 20 per cent balsam and the balance in spruce. The wood was larger diameter than typically encountered in these post-beetle days, with piece counts of .4 to .5 cubic metres/stem. (Next up it was back to normal: a small 5,000 cubic metre salvage pine stand nearby averaging .25 cubic metres/stem).

Licencee Canfor in Houston required sorts of all species in 9 inches and under, under 13 inches and oversize.

Lorne HimechHimech Logging has introduced a new procedure when logging trucks have been fully loaded. The loader operator uses his machine to lift and drop the ties across the wood bundles on the truck. It saves the log truck drivers from having to heave them over the load (appreciated by the older set). But it’s also a safety feature, because the load has to be properly cinched before it moves anywhere, explained Himech.

Himech Logging harvests around 250,000 cubic metres annually for Canfor, including an AAC of 95,000 cubic metres under a replaceable licence.

For this assignment, Himech had assigned the appropriate machines to get the job done, with proven Caterpillar, Tigercat and Madill equipment prominent. “The dealers and the service we receive from them is second to none,” said Himech, explaining the machine choices. “Finning in Houston (the Cat dealer) looks after us very well and offers creative packages like extended warranties and the Madills are super reliable and have a good rebuild program.”

The company’s fleet includes two Tigercat 870 feller bunchers and two 3200 B Madills. Skidders include two 630D Tigercats and a 625C six wheeler and two Cat 535s. Handling the loading are two Madill butt n ‘tops—a 2850 and a 2800—along with a Cat 325C, which can load or hoe chuck for the processors. There are eight of those, Cat 320Cs to Es, all equipped with Waratah 622B processing heads.

Himech said the company did have a Waratah 624 head but lately there hasn’t been enough larger wood to keep it at optimum performance. When larger stems are encountered, the 622s handle them.

John Himech Logging runs seven logging trucks, including two of its own Kenworth rigs. One company truck doubles as a lowbed hauler when required. “All of the trailers, including the contract ones, have Timmins hayrack trailers. They work really well for us.”

On the roadbuilding side is a Cat 325, a 320 and a Komatsu 200, a Cat D7R, D7K and a 250E articulated truck. Other equipment includes a D5 with snowplow and two loader Kenworth service trucks. A contract mechanic is available in the shop on the outskirts of Houston along with a full parts inventory.

Today’s equipment roster represents a major change from the pre-beetle days. Back when Northwood and its predecessor companies were operating further up the Morice drainage abutting the Kalum Forest District, the wood types were much more coastal.

“There was a lot of decadent balsam and it required a different complement of equipment,” recalled Himech.”A two foot snowfall could happen anytime. It can slow you down but you get to know how to deal with it.”

John HimechJohn Himech (right black and white photo, dated the 1960s) would likely be very surprised at today's fleet of efficient-and highly computerized-logging equipment. John's children, including son Lorne (above) now ably steer John Himech Contracting forward.

It’s a fair assumption John Himech’s eyebrows would rise somewhat given today’s fleet of logging equipment. John and Myrna Himech started the business from nothing. They had worked their way west from Alberta, bringing with them to the Bulkley Valley the old farm work ethic and the ability to survive. Those characteristics along with a strong sense of community haven’t changed as John and Myrna’s children steer the log contracting company forward. It’s still very much a family operation.

And in that sense, it’s not so far removed from when John and Myrna ran the logging business across the kitchen table after the children were in bed, the animals settled and the day’s outdoor activities had slowed.

Lorne Himech and his brother, Kevin, took on increasing roles with their dad and his partner’s logging business through the late 1960s and into the 1970s. By the 1980s, Lorne had acquired some of his own log harvesting equipment and was also assuming a supervisory role in activities. Another brother, Irv, also helped out especially as a winter equipment operator, as does Lorne’s son, Warren, who also has a drilling and blasting business.

But running an efficient log harvesting business has become a whole lot more complicated since John and Myrna’s day, especially in interpreting and accommodating changing regulations and requirements. That is where Lorne’s sisters, Janice Himech and Karen Thom, play invaluable roles as business and office managers respectively. “They make things run as smooth as you can have them,” said Lorne Himech appreciatively.

Running as smoothly and efficiently as you can sums up what all the logging Himech family members strive toward despite the unexpected flare-ups from Mother Nature and other sources along the way.