Log shortage from forest fires sparks sawmill closure in Ladysmith

Log shortage from forest fires sparks sawmill closure in Ladysmith

WATCH: Even as the calendar stretches into mid-October, the impact of this summer’s wildfires continues on Vancouver Island. A shortage of logs from the long shutdown of Island forests has closed the Western Forest Products Sawmill in Ladysmith for four weeks now.

All is quiet at the usually buzzing Western Forest Products Sawmill in Ladysmith.

It has been shut down since Sept. 21 when a log shortage sparked by this summer’s wildfires emptied out all of its booms out front.

“Well anytime you have guys out of work it’s not a good thing,” said Glenn Calder with the Public and Private Workers of Canada Union.

“So hopefully we can get some wood in the water and get some guys back to work.”

The smaller trees the Ladysmith mill processes are harvested mainly from the North Island, where a massive shut down of forest operations happened due to the dry, hot weather and forest fires that ravaged that region for months this summer.

Even as recently as Sunday, a flare up from the massive Zeballos area fire had to be doused, many weeks after fire crews left town.

So many companies are now wanting the trees finally coming out of that area.

“Ladysmith cuts a smaller dimension log and that fibre is very competitive out there because we’re whole log chipping some of that fibre for our pulp mills as well so it’s a very competitive log right now,” said Calder.

Eighty workers are affected by the shutdown.
Western Forest Products has put many of them to work in other mills in the meantime, but Glenn Calder says that’s not enough.

“There’s been mill closures all over this province,” said Calder.

“And you know we don’t want to see another mill go down because, you know, we gotta keep our guys working.”

Calder said Ladysmith’s mill should be running, using logs that are now in plentiful supply and being sent to foreign markets.

“When we see logs being exported throughout the province it’s an eyeopener and hopefully, the government can help us change some policies,” said Calder.

Western Forest Products did not respond to our requests for an interview. The Ladysmith Western Forest Products Sawmill is expected to re-open on Oct. 21.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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