November & December 2005



Creative Logging

Teamwork, top equipment and a creative streak make Cascade West
Logging the choice for specialty jobs

By Kurt Glaeseman

Side rod, Reese Heintz, monitors the whole operation at the Fortune Windfall side. He’s dwarfed by the 6644 Koehring shovel.

Thomas Ireland? Would that be the log trucker, the logger, or the University of Oregon Forestry student? Living around four generations of Thomas Irelands, the folks at Myrtle Creek, Ore. have learned the drill. In this case it’s the third generation — Tommy Ireland, the logger who picked up a 2004 Merit Award from the Oregon Department of Forestry for excellence in harvesting steep slopes above a scenic corridor near Elkton.

Finding the Right Approach Tommy, owner of Cascade West Logging, admits he had to get a little creative for this project, but he and United Fruit Growers’ geo-tech Rod Burns figured out a viable plan. Although they had to protect an aesthetic buffer along the highway, the area was still worth harvesting. Good second growth fir was available on the steep slopes.

The 6644 Koehring shovel and truck driver Doug Whitmore.

Ireland’s repertoire of logging equipment was well suited for this job. He had a dependable D-8, a D-7 for the guy line, a TSY 255 Thunderbird yarder, a 942 Thunderbird shovel and a 220 Komatsu processor with a Pierce delimber. Since there was no place for a tail hole, Ireland asked for and received permission from the State Highway Department to park the Cat on the highway. The slope was so severe that the crew, according to Ireland, enjoyed a bit of a learning curve as they got used to an intermediate support system to get the necessary lift and also to prevent mutilation of the hillside.

Hooktender Reese Heintz, now serving as side rod, kept a watchful eye as the operation developed. “He’s a born leader,” says Ireland. “He understood what the objectives were and what the machinery could do. In fact, he took care of things. That’s why he’s now the side rod, running the shovel.”

Heintz says he enjoyed the job. He gets along well with the rest of the crew, and he likes to see the machinery performing as it should. The use of intermediate support just added an interesting slant to what otherwise would have been normal yarder procedure. “Hey,” he says, “it’s no big deal if you have good machinery and a great crew. The crew means a lot!” Heintz is more than a little protective toward his crew: Rigging puller Jesse Simmons is soon to be his full-time son-in-law.

Owner Tommy Ireland does a little troubleshooting.

Keeping it Safe

Heintz repeatedly drills the guys on the ground: “We’re concerned about your safety. You’ve got to use your eyes, your ears, everything to stay healthy.” His words do not go unheeded. Several of the crew remember too well what happened to hooktender Troy Wisby some years back. Both his legs were broken in a yarder mishap. But Wisby refused to stay down for the count. After some serious reconstruction and a titanium rod, he was ready to get back in the swing of things. When offered a job as yarder engineer, Wisby declined. He preferred to get back in the brush. That’s the part of logging he likes.

The TSY 255 yarder along with the Komatsu processor with a Pierce delimber.

On the Ground Today

Recently this same crew was harvesting a 70-acre tract called the Fortune Windfall. It’s above the small community of Azalea, not far from Glendale. The land is owned by Silver Butte Timber, and the harvest plan required taking 50-year-old second growth of fir and hemlock, much of which has been downed by high winds. The basic crew and the machinery remained the same as on the Stanley Highway Project, with the addition of a 6644 Koehring shovel. Logs were hauled by Ireland trucks, part of Tommy’s dad’s business. The side sort included chip logs (four inches on the little end) that went to South Point, near Eugene; pulp wood; and goodsized logs. The bigger logs go to C+D Lumber in Riddle and the smaller white fir to Sun Stud in Roseburg.

Down in the steep brush: choker setter Raymond Sanchez and rigging slinger Jesse Simmons work closely with the Acme carriage.


One of Ireland’s star performers is the big, three-speed Acme Carriage, which can gear down to Slow when the going is real brushy. Ireland and Heintz both find the machine efficient and dependable. “We’re really happy with it,” says Heintz. “It’s light and quick and certainly boosts our production.” Below the yarder you can see a stout tree rigged with a block in it to provide lift on the brushy slopes. Knowing and using any advantage possible just makes sense when logging terrain like this.

Ireland likes working for C+D Lumber and for Silver Butte. He has an established track record with them and they often seek him out for these specialty jobs. Occasionally he finds himself logging exactly where his dad logged 50 years ago. “It’s a good feeling,” reflects Tommy, “to know that you and your family have real roots in the area.”

New Generation

Ireland is pleased that his oldest son Thomas is interested in logging, but that decision must remain his own. Tommy realizes that kids have a wide range of choices, and he worries sometimes that so many choose a vocation easier than logging.

He deplores a current trend known in-house as the Protection Racket. Unless a logging company can afford to hire an all-night guard, expensive equipment is often vulnerable to vandalism and theft. Petty thieves sometimes come to expect little protection tributes left on the side: tools, fire extinguishers, radios—stuff easily absorbed or fenced. No one likes the implied threat, but downtime from damaged machinery is exorbitantly expensive. What is a logging company to do? Tommy just shakes his head.

“I have a lot of respect for anyone in this industry,” says Ireland. “We all know it’s tough. To be successful you have to make big decisions on a daily basis and you have to understand intense management.” He chuckles.“Logging is a team sport, much like football. If you can’t work as a team, most likely you won’t get the job done.”

“Even though logging is a competitive industry,” adds Ireland, “somehow we all remain friends.” He recalls how one of his rivals voluntarily detoured off the highway to help him troubleshoot, and how another magically produced a vital part from his shop when the factory source was locked up in a strike.

“Other loggers have treated me good, and I want to do the same for them. We care for each other, a lot more than many folks know. After all,” he says, “we’re all in this together. It’s up to us to see that a healthy industry survives.”

Tommy Ireland can be contacted at Cascade West Logging in Myrtle Creek, Ore., at (541) 863-6674.


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This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 24, 2006