The day began earlier than usual at Mike Gogo’s sawmill as workers put together a rush order for the BC Wildfire Service.

“Made phone calls last night saying we need to get a super early start,” said Gogo. “We normally start at six in the morning but this morning we started at five because we wanted to get this ready for the forestry service as soon as we can.”

The order is for 32 9 inch (23 centimetres) by 16 feet (five metre) long pieces of Douglas fir. They’ll be used to make landing pads for helicopters fighting forest fires in remote areas on the north island.

“As far as I know, they’re building them right off stumps, cutting trees down and building these right off stumps and I believe they’re trying to get the fuel close to the helicopters don’t have to fly a long way for fuel. Every minute counts in a forest fire,” he said.

The fires are still burning so the helicopter landing pads need to be delivered as soon as possible.

“We had it all ready to go. We’re prepared. We did it last year, we did it the year before. We’re always ready for fires that seem to get worse every year.” said Gogo.

Gogo’s mill itself was threatened by the Nanaimo Lakes wildfire earlier this month. He says he barely slept as it burned about five kilometres from his property that includes several homes, a Christmas tree farm and the sawmill.

Now he’s contributing in the fight against other fires on the island.

“Well it all feels good, everybody’s into it,” he added.

“It does feel good to be cutting wood to help other people.” said mill workers Tony Mckee.

There are still dozens of fires burning on the north island and helicopters are a major part of fighting them but access and refuelling is difficult, so the new helicopter landing pads are expected to become a critical part in the fight against the fires.

Dean Stoltz