Edmonton

Loggers find few salvageable trees in wake of Fort McMurray wildfire

Loggers trying to harvest trees felled by the Fort McMurray wildfire last spring say they are finding only one-third of the salvageable wood they had expected

The fire burned so hot that many trees are deteriorating before they can be used

Far more trees around Fort McMurray were unusable after last year's wildfire than initially expected. (Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Loggers trying to harvest trees killed by the Fort McMurray wildfire last spring say they are finding only a third of the salvageable wood they expected to find.

They report the fire which destroyed 1,800 single-family homes and other structures in the city burned so hot as high winds pushed it through the dry forest that little is left to recover — and what is left is deteriorating rapidly.

Most of the timber-cutting in the Fort McMurray area takes place during the winter, when frozen wetlands and ice bridges over rivers allow crews to access stands of trees.

Woodlands manager Cal Dakin of Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries says he expected to salvage more than two million cubic metres of wood from fire-killed trees this season and next for the pulp mill, but now thinks he will bring in less than 700,000 cubic metres.

President Howard Ewashko of the Northland Forest Products sawmill in Fort McMurray said his crews are also finding fewer salvageable trees than they expected.

He says he's reduced his logging workforce this winter to about 80 from 120 people because he still has unsold inventory after being forced by the wildfire to shut down for two months last spring.