Logger Leslie Sapp has called the Cariboo Chilcotin home his entire life. (Photo submitted)

Logger Leslie Sapp has called the Cariboo Chilcotin home his entire life. (Photo submitted)

OUR HOMETOWN: Leslie Sapp enjoys living, working in the Williams Lake area

He joined the family’s logging business full-time in 2006

Third-generation logger Leslie Sapp hopes to work in the industry for the entirety of his career.

“I enjoy the challenges,” the 38-year-old said, adding with a chuckle that some days are difficult.

“When it is really hot in the summertime and you are concerned about fire hazards it can be stressful and in the winter time when it is -30C or colder that can be hard on machinery and employees.”

Leslie constantly monitors weather apps and plans around changing weather conditions, which have been extreme in some cases the last few years.

“We are really slaves to the weather.”

Born in Williams Lake, he works in the family business Sapp Logging.

His father Gene Sapp and grandfather Ralph Sapp started the company in the Big Creek area in the early 80s.

The Sapps had moved to Big Creek in 1975 from South Dakota and bought Two-Creek Ranch, which Gene’s sister Joyce and her husband operate today.

Lorna, his mom, grew up in Merritt.

She moved to Big Creek to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, met Gene and married him a couple of years later.

“My mom actually taught my dad’s younger sibling,” Leslie said.

The oldest of three, with two younger sisters Karla and Loretta, when he was ready to attend kindergarten, the family moved closer to the West Fraser Road north of Williams Lake.

He attended Glendale elementary, Columneetza secondary and after graduating in 2002, went to the University of British Columbia to study engineering.

Three years into the program, he realized it was not want he wanted to pursue, so he returned home and started working full-time with the family business – Sapp Logging.

“I wanted to carry on working with my parents,” he recalled. “Since I was big enough to do anything I was tagging along with my dad. I started full-time with him in 2006.”

Sapps log within a four-hour window of Williams Lake – west of Quesnel, but primarily west of Williams Lake.

At the height of the season, they will have anywhere between eight and 12 employees.

“We do stump to truck, we don’t own logging trucks, we just own machinery. The trucks belong to subcontractors – we log for Sigurdson Brothers in town here.”

Up until the 2000s, the company has harvested mountain pine beetle infestation stands in the Big Creek and Alexis Creek.

“When we had the big infestation in the 2000s we’ve worked exclusively on that until 2017 and then we’ve been logging primarily burnt fir after the 2017 fires up until now.”

The burnt fir quality is dropping and while they are logging some still, they are at the tail end of it.

“Collectively, the industry, we’ve cleaned up most of the burnt merchantable wood there, but at this point it is getting really hard to economically log.”

During the 2017 wildfires the Sapps stayed behind, fighting the Hanceville and Riske Creek fires west of Williams Lake.

On Friday, July 7, the woods had been shut down and Leslie was in town buying some parts for the shop.

All of a sudden there were several plumes of smoke around Williams Lake.

His dad called him on the phone and told him just to buy some firefighting supplies.

“A couple hours later Lee Todd flew in on his helicopter and said, ‘heh, we’re going out to Riske Creek, you guys coming out in the morning?”

As the fire season unfolded the Sapps had crews trying to keep the fire at bay using bulldozers and skidders with water tanks.

Lorna also stayed behind to volunteer cooking for visiting firefighters from other communities.

Today the Sapps are part of a task force made up of contractors, industry groups and the ministry of forests working together during fire seasons.

“We got lucky with the weather last summer – not a lot of lightning strikes,” Leslie said, adding they acted quickly on small fires to stop them from getting bigger. “During the heat dome there were fires everywhere but here.”

Outside of work he loves being with his wife Bobbie-Jo Macnair, who he met through mutual friends five years ago, and their 11-month-old son Ellis.

He enjoys catching up on projects around the house and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he and Bobbie-Jo enjoyed going on vacations.

Playing basketball in a local men’s league is also something he does when he can.

“I played in high school and had some good coaches at Columneetza – Gregg Gaylord and Jack Burgar.”

He loves the Cariboo-Chilcotin region and its diversity of geography, as well has having lots of family and friends and a whole network of people nearby.

“Being born and raised here, I’m tied to the land between growing up with the ranch and logging and knowing the area and the people. It has become my home. I don’t see foresee myself leaving.”

There are always people to help each other out, he added.

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