Burnt timber salvageable if harvested now, says B.C. forest company
A year's worth of of harvestable timber was destroyed during this summer’s wildfires
British Columbia's state of emergency was lifted over the weekend, but the forest industry is still reeling from the effects of a summer of wildfires that shut down mills and halted logging in its tracks.
The province estimates that 53 million cubic meters of timber burned in the Interior — an entire year's timber harvest.
Tom Hoffman, the manager of external and stakeholder relations with forest product's company, Tolko, said the industry is trying to regain a footing.
- B.C.'s state of emergency to end at midnight Friday
- B.C. forest industry faces big setbacks after summer of wildfires
"Our mills were shut down for the better part of three weeks," Hoffman told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker.
"I'm glad to say that our operations in William's Lake are running two shifts with an eye to adding a third as soon as log inventories are stabilized."
Tolko runs nine mills across B.C., including three in the Cariboo, the region most affected by the wildfires but not all of them are back to operating. The mill in Quesnel remains closed for the time being, due to a lack of logs.
'Sense of urgency'
Hoffman said that although there is a lot of damage, some of the burnt timber may be salvageable, if it is harvested quickly enough.
"There is a lot of potential in the burnt logs," he said. "We need to access this fibre as quickly as we can, so that it is still viable. The longer we leave it, the more insects, disease and rot occurs."
Tolko is working with the Ministry of Forests to get the necessary permits and approvals to proceed with a salvage harvest, Hoffman said.
"The salvage depends on the severity of burn, but the salvage timber does present quite a unique operational challenge to us," he said. "We have a real sense of urgency around it."
Working with the damaged timber will be a challenge, he said, because the equipment will need to be refitted to process the logs and debarking will be more difficult.
It also means less profits from byproducts like wood chips sold to pulp and paper mills, because they won't accept chips with contamination from char or charcoal.
"We've got probably two years to make good on salvaging fibre that will ensure our profitability," Hoffman said. "Time is of the essence and the clock is ticking."
To listen to the full interview, click on the audio link below:
With files from Daybreak South.