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Salvaging Wood Products From Charred Trees

"The good news is that, if we harvest burnt logs quickly, we will still get good quality lumber and plywood. The longer we wait to harvest them, the less moisture they will have. Drier logs make it harder to recover the most value out of the fibre as the years go by," says Mark Runge.

In addition to lumber and plywood, products like pulp that use our chips need to be pickier. Any burnt chips or even a piece of ash will affect the colour of our pulp product. However, burnt woody pieces like bark can go in our hog fuel that helps run our energy systems. “We’re trying to use as much of the log as we can,” says Chad Swanson.

After a forest fire when harvesting burnt timber is underway, our woods teams work closely with contractors to ensure safe practices in a more dangerous environment.

“Our contractors put in extra effort to stay safe. The burnt timber presents a challenge for harvesting machinery because the charcoal that comes off the trees creates dust. If our harvesting and logging contractors do not clean their machinery carefully and often, it can catch fire," says Mark Runge, Woods Manager, Williams Lake. 

Cleaning Logging Machinery

salvage harvesting after wildfires

In addition to contractors cleaning their machinery often due to fire hazards, loggers must clean their machinery before going in and out of work sites. This helps prevent the spread of invasive plants (weeds), that thrive in weak environments, like a burned forest floor.


Charcoal dust also presents challenges to our mill operations. Although wood dust is managed very well at our mills, burnt timber brings large concentrations of charcoal dust generated by the burnt bark as it goes through our de-barker machines. Dusty material quickly clouds the de-barker scanners that are needed to size logs. When dust covers the scanners, the de-barker doesn't work correctly, because the scanners provide the information to adjust the optimal speed for the size of the log going through it.

“We’ve found a solution to include a mist of water to keep the dust off. In the winter, this isn’t possible because the water will freeze. The solution in the winter is to mix non-burned wood with burnt wood to control the amount of dust and allow the scanners to function,” says Mark Runge. Chad Swanson adds that “we have very good dust systems in place to mitigate possibilities of a fire hazard at the mills.”

Forest Recovery after the BC Wildfires

Reforestation planning starts before any trees are harvested, and replanting most often follows harvesting within one or two years.  The burnt forest we harvested in the summer will typically be followed up with a visit in the fall by our silviculture foresters. Based on that visit, they will finalize their a reforestation plan to plant young seedlings to regrow the forest cover.  This period allows us to select a number of native tree species in the right mix for land, sow the seeds for the seedlings, grow them to the right height and volume, and finally go out and plant them.

Learn more about the seedlings grown to replace the trees we harvest and how tree planters reforest a cut block.

If you are curious to learn more about our forest harvesting practices, learn more about forest management and harvest planning after wildfires and our practices for sustainably harvesting trees in the winter.