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TimberWest November/December 2013

January/February 2015

Photo taken of the Blazzard mill pond in Kama, Utah. A Long History in Utah

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Blazzard Lumber

A Long History in Utah

Blazzard Lumber

By Kathy Coatney

Blazzard Lumber Company was established in the mid-1800s when the founders of the company came across the plains with the Mormon pioneers to Utah.

“My great-great-great grandfather actually delivered his first load of logs here in Utah to the pioneer leader, Brigham Young, for him to build his home,” says David Blazzard, who runs Blazzard Lumber with his brother James. Their dad James R. is president of the company and their Uncle John is vice president.

Originally Blazzard Lumber’s sawmills were portable and (like all mills back then) steam powered. The company evolved over the decades, and in the 1950s, David’s grandfather built the current mill in Kamas, Utah.

Blazzard LumberThe Blazzards have a short harvesting season —from July through September—because they are working at altitudes of 8,000 to 10,000 feet.

Short Season & High Altitudes

Utah has four months of gorgeous summertime, and during that period the family logs timber and stockpiles the logs. In essence, David says, “We do a year’s worth of logging in four months.” They cut mostly Engelmann Spruce, along with some Lodgepole Pine and Alpine fir.

Logging begins in July after the snow melts, and the family works non-stop to have enough logs cut to keep the sawmill running all winter.

High elevations can also be a challenge, as a lot of the logging is done between 8,000 to 10,000 feet. “Right now we’re coming to a pass that we’re topping almost 11,000 feet to bring our loads in,” David says.

Deere and Cat Guys

The Blazzards log almost everything using John Deere and Caterpillar (CAT) skidders.

James is a CAT guy when it comes to skidders. “I prefer the shuttle [shifter] instead of the power shifter in the John Deere,” he says, adding that there is also a little stronger product support.

“It just seems like you can always get CAT parts.”

David, on the other hand, prefers the John Deere skidder. “I’ve been running a John Deere skidder since I was 13 years old,” he says. “I like my gears and my clutch, the swinging grapple and the way my John Deere runs.”

He adds, “I’ve put our John Deere through some pretty good tests, and they all look strong,”

However, David wouldn’t say John Deere has better quality over CAT. For him, what it comes down to is personal preference.

The company uses a Kobelco 220 as its main log loader, James said. With the jewel attachment, they can throw the tongs down and wench in the logs.

James prefers the track mount Kobelco because it’s more versatile.

Blazzard LumberFallers

Blazzard hires a crew of approximately a dozen fallers each year. Typically they use either Husqvarna (Husky) or Stihl chainsaws. Which brand they choose comes down to personal preference.

For landing saws, the brothers prefer Stihl because it “starts in one second.” For bumping limbs, they want a chainsaw that starts in two seconds. With a Husky, they have to crank on it just a little, but as far as durability, Husky and Stihl are neck and neck.

Blazzard Lumber Company is a dealership for Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws, and they sell a lot of chainsaws out of the mill office.

Logging Trucks

The company also runs its own logging trucks, including Kenworths, Peterbilts, Macks, and an International. “How many we have or how many we are running depends on the day,” David jokes. “We usually have at least four trucks running every day, and then we have some self loaders for specialized sites.”

The self loaders are used for cleaning up an area or for smaller areas like campground sites.


The sawmill can handle any size log — from 16 by 16 timber to 1 by 4, David says.

When the logs arrive at the sawmill, they are stockpiled. When it’s time to mill them, they are placed in the log pond.

“That is strictly to wash them off, to keep the dust down in our mill,” David says, plus it makes them easier to handle.

The log pond is also cost effective. Rather than have a front-end loader feeding the logs to the sawmill day in and day out, the logs in the pond only require one person to run them into the sawmill.

“It cuts down on costs in diesel fuel and wear and tear on machinery,” David says. And with the pond on site, if there’s a fire, water can be pumped if needed.

A homemade pond saw is used to cut the logs to length before they go into the mill, which also saves time. “A guy can sit there on a raft and just float them back and forth very easily and cut them to the lengths we need,” David explains.

The saw is simple. “Pretty much it’s just a motor, and of course you buy a bar and then the chain,” David says.

From the pond, the logs move on to the Corley headrig saw. (The entire saw mill is Corley except for the sash gang saw, which is LINCK from Germany, but sold by Corley.) The lumber is then dried. When a new order comes in, the dried lumber is moved to the planing mill.

The Blazzards will plane through the winter and spring until July arrives, and they move up into the hills to log again.

Blazzard LumberAfter the logs leave the pond, they move to sawmill, a Corley headrig, that can handle most any size. The company will mill through the fall, winter and spring until the harvesting season opens up to them again. (David Blazzard pictured.)


Finding and keeping skilled labor is what James sees as their biggest challenge. “We’re so close to the oil and the mining and the construction, it’s hard to compete with their wages.”

David feels their greatest challenge is capital. Between the rising cost of health insurance, labor, and equipment and diesel costs, logging is an extremely expensive operation.

“Lumber prices just really haven’t changed that much in the last umpteen years,” David says. However the cost of fuel has continued to climb.

Challenges have been a way of life for the Blazzard family for generations. They don’t intend to stop now. Logging and milling are more than a tradition, they are a way of life.

The Blazzards have a varied lineup of equipment to operate in the high Utah elevations.

  • CAT 518 and CAT TSK D4
  • TIMBCO 435 feller buncher
  • D6 and D4 CAT bulldozers
  • Timberline Stroke Delimber
  • 3 Front End Loaders
  • CAT 950 and 966, and IT38G
  • 3 Hyster15,000 lb Fork Lifts
  • 3 John Deere 648s with ESCO Swinging Grapples
  • CAT 140G Road Grader, and 315 Excavator with Thumb
  • 3 Kenworths, W900
  • 2 Peterbilt 378s, one a self loader
  • 3 Macks
  • International 4300 series self loader