SALVAGE LOGGING IN B.C.SALVAGE LOGGING IN B.C. — but this time it’s for burned wood

Forest companies and logging contractors are getting ready to go into salvage mode big-time to tackle the burned timber from the worst fire season B.C. has ever seen. It’s been estimated that about 53 million cubic metres of timber has been burned, about four times the provincial allowable annual cut.

By Jim Stirling

British Columbia’s Interior forest companies and their logging contractors are going back into salvage mode. After years of racing against time to extract the optimum value from wood infested by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, there’s now damaged fibre of a different kind—and a whole new challenge.

During the next couple of years, the focus will be on harvesting wood volumes impacted by B.C.’s worst wild fire season. Just how bad 2017 has been and how much timber has been lost to the provincial working forest is unknown: at the time of writing, some fires were still raging, mainly in the Chilcotin, Cariboo and at locations in the Okanagan and Kootenay valleys.

But what is clear is the previous 1958 record for land burned by wild fires in B.C. —8,950 square kilometres—has long been surpassed. The B.C. Wildfire Service reported in September that this year’s diary of disaster reveals more than 12,000 wild fires had burned across 11,700 square kilometres of provincial forest lands since April 1. To put it in perspective, that is an area about one-third the size of all of Vancouver Island.

SALVAGE LOGGING IN B.C.The B.C. Wildfire Service reported in September that this year’s diary of disaster reveals more than 12,000 wild fires had burned across 11,700 square kilometres of provincial forest lands since April 1. To put it in perspective, that is an area about one-third the size of Vancouver Island.

On a human scale, around 50,000 people were forced from their homes by the wild fires at various times and the provincial state of emergency invoked July 7 was extended four times until September 15.

“On the positive side, no (forestry) infrastructure was damaged by the fires and we are grateful for that,” said Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) based in Vancouver. “But a great deal of fibre was consumed (in the fires) and we don’t know the full extent yet from that impact.” Yurkovich expects the emphasis will be on salvaging the fire-stricken stands as soon as possible. Just as mountain pine beetle wood degraded with time, the process is expected to accelerate faster with burned timber.

Yurkovich said COFI will be working with the province’s NDP government to help speed and smoothen access to the fire damaged stands. She anticipates the burned wood will create contamination issues for the many interior sawmills which generate cash flows from the capture of residual wood products like chips, shavings and sawdust.

Maximizing the value of wood in burned stands is one good argument for an accelerated salvage timetable. “We have to try and fibre our mills as best we can and keep the flow of wood going,” says Yurkovich. Keeping sawmills operating at capacity and people working in the bush and plants is also the best way to keep the local economies percolating in the small forest dependent Interior communities, she added.

The wild fires have come at a tough time for the forest sector as efforts continue to strike a new softwood lumber deal and help offset the impacts of countervailing and anti-dumping duties levied by the U.S. The renegotiation of NAFTA with the U.S. and Mexico creates another significant cloud on Canada’s  international trading horizon.

Meanwhile, the U.S. lumber market is robust and showing no signs of abatement, reports Yurkovich. So far, it’s the American consumers who are feeling the tightest pinch from the duties imposed by their own government by having to pay up to 20 per cent more for building materials. The devastating hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida have further stimulated lumber demand for use in replacement housing and infrastructure.

Other hints are emerging about the possible timing for when loggers can expect to start the large scale salvage of wood volumes burned during the 2017 wild fire season. “Areas burned that contain salvageable timber will be planned as timber sales once field assessments, layout, stakeholder referral consultation and other agency permissions are in place, currently anticipated by next summer,” said the Ministry of Forests, Lands Natural Resource operations and Rural Development in a statement from the Cariboo region. BC Timber Sales, the provincial agency with a mandate to provide cost and price benchmarks for timber harvested from public land in B.C., is evaluating options for auctioning the fire damaged timber, said the statement.

Concerns around the optimum timing for salvage operations from a biodiversity perspective have been voiced in the academic communities. They note that wild fires don’t burn or cause damage uniformly. Each fire has a life of its own. It’s desirable to protect the remaining standing green timber that survived the fires, rather than following a simple clear cut prescription, they point out.

Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s recently appointed forests minister, has been closely monitoring the wild fire situation in the Interior. “We know there is going to be an extremely high need for reforestation and that’s being planned right now through my ministry in order to ensure that we do have the timber supply in the future. But there is no question that there’s going to be an impact from that much timber being burned in the province,” he said. Donaldson estimates about 53 million cubic metres of timber has been burned, about four times the provincial allowable annual cut.

The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association, whose members grow seedlings and plant trees, has been assessing preliminary figures and received some modeling estimates on the extent of the reforestation challenge ahead for B.C. On the assumption that about 30 per cent of the area burned is in the timber harvest land base, reforestation would require about 326 million seedlings at a cost of $1.20 a seedling. That amounts to about $391 million in reforestation costs including planning and site preparation. That projection however, does not take into account the harder-to-assess and indirect costs such as economic losses and effects on forest dependent communities.

When the loggers do get out in the bush to start the burned wood salvage on Crown land, they and their equipment will face an additional set of challenges. “You need a different maintenance system,” recommends Ron Dillman. “Every logging phase is working in the ash and dust. It’s a big learning game.” His company, Dillman Contracting, is based at 108 Mile House in the south Cariboo region. He’s been harvesting burned wood on private land from property owners and ranchers affected by the summer’s Gustafson wildfire near 100 Mile House.

He’s been working at night so his harvesting machines could run cooler, he explained. The dust and ash gets everywhere. It means paying particular attention to items like air filters, seals and carbon build-up on knives. Dillman was experimenting with stopping the processors and other production machines half -way through the shift to thoroughly check, service and clean key machine components.

Dillman’s log contracting business specializes in small scale salvage, harvesting private wood, BC Timber Sales and providing fibre for Norbord Inc.’s OSB manufacturing plant in 100 Mile House. His harvesting equipment line up includes three feller bunchers, a Tigercat 860 and 870 and a Madill; two Link-Belts and a Hyundai processor fitted with 500 series Southstar heads; a John Deere748 skidder, and a Tigercat 630 and Hyundai and Madill log loaders. The company also runs four Freightliner logging trucks, a Western Star and a Freightliner low-bed.

One of Dillman’s customers—Norbord Inc.—was preparing to test run some of the burned timber to assess its suitability for oriented strand board manufacture. The wood burned in the Gustafson fire contained a mix of species, although it is heavy into thick-barked Douglas fir, noted Mike Kennedy, Norbord’s woodlands manager based in Kamloops. Norbord is an international producer of wood-based panels. The 100 Mile House facility has been able to successfully convert beetle killed timber to OSB panels without compromising Norbord’s high quality standards for its boards, explained Kennedy. “As for the burned wood, my fingers are crossed at this point,” he concluded.

 

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
November 2017

On the Cover:
While others shy away from oilpatch logging, Alberta's JD Haggart Contracting pursues this business for one simple reason—it pays better and they have the experience to be able to mobilize quickly when an opportunity comes their way. They also have the equipment to deliver the wood, including two John Deere 2154 processor carriers, both equipped with Waratah heads. Read all about the operation beginning on page 10 of this issue. (Cover photo by Tony Kryzanowski)

Balancing out the forestry workplace
There’s a movement underway to encourage more women to work in the forest industry, and it’s getting some solid traction from forest company Tolko Industries—and full support from women who are now working in the industry.

Ability and availability = logging success
Alberta logging contractor JD Haggart—managed by the husband and wife team of Dave and Roxanne Haggart—know that ability and availability are keys to logging success, especially in oilpatch logging.

Front end focus following mill fire
Saskatchewan’s NorSask Forest Products is bouncing back from a fire that hit its sawmill earlier this year, and has invested $21 million on a major front end redesign following the fire.

Bringing on the next generation...
Nova Scotia’s Sebastien Pouliot knew he wanted to be a logger at a very young age—and he’s now successfully ushering in a new generation of equipment operators, through a training program.

Salvage logging in B.C.—but this time it's for burned wood
Forest companies and logging contractors are getting ready to go into salvage mode big-time to tackle the burned timber from the worst fire season B.C. has ever seen. It’s been estimated that about 53 million cubic metres of timber has been burned, about four times the provincial allowable annual cut.

Sawmill/speedway combo
Paul Hargrave and his son, Scott, have a passion for sawmilling—and for race cars, too, since they have a combination sawmill/speedway operation on B.C.’s Vancouver Island.

Team logging effort
The husband and wife team that manages Ontario’s St. Onge logging has been successful in directing their operations through the industry’s rocky times—and now has a very successful chipping operation, and recently started logging for EACOM and Weyerhaeuser.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture.

The Last Word
Jim Stirling on B.C.’s wildest wildfire season, and looking at how to prevent a repeat performance.

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