Williams Lake Plywood plant manager Dave Walgren said the company has been bringing logs to the plant from east of 100 Mile House and west of Williams Lake but with logging shut down since July 7 due to wildfires, everyone is working to make sure there is enough inventory. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

Williams Lake Plywood plant manager Dave Walgren said the company has been bringing logs to the plant from east of 100 Mile House and west of Williams Lake but with logging shut down since July 7 due to wildfires, everyone is working to make sure there is enough inventory. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

Wildfires hamper getting inventory to local mills

Getting inventory to mills in Williams Lake continues to be a concern for local companies as the wildfire season unfolds.

Since July 7, logging operations have been shut down in the Cariboo-Chilcotin due to the fire danger risk, but before that, said Williams Lake Plywood Plant manager Dave Walgren, inventory was already low, something that is normal during the summer months.

“We have been getting logs from Quesnel, from out west and from east of 100 Mile House,” Walgren told the Tribune. “The advantage of being a larger company is that it can we can rely on companies in the north and south of Williams Lake. It is a concern, but guys are working hard to make sure there’s enough wood to run the plant.”

Tolko’s Soda Creek division plant manager Mike Dextrase said the company has a few days of logs in the bush, but has lost many cubic metres of decked wood to the fires.

“We hope to pick away at what we do have and hope it helps bridge the gap until the fire risk allows logging to restart,” Dextrase said. “This is a concern for all mills and areas south of here as many other facilities are low or out of logs which will mean more jobs will be affected, at least until the weather helps slow the fires.”

Walgren said logs from burnt out areas that are salvageable can be used in mills.

Fire protection response admirable

Dextrase and Walgren said they were proud of their employees’ responses to the evacuation alerts and orders.

By the evening of July 7 operations were impacted at all mills because evacuation orders had forced some employees out of their homes in areas just outside the city and others were on alert.

“There was so much stress in the plant that we curtailed operations,” Walgren said, noting after July 7 anybody who showed up for work helped with site security and fire preparedness.

Dextrase said Tolko also began preparing once the first alerts were issued.

Employees removed combustibles including all logs, lumber and debris from inside and around the sawmill, planer and other buildings.

“We held daily meetings to review and implement risk mitigation ideas from our employees including everything from closing doors and building openings to cleaning and strategically spacing our mobile equipment,” Dextrase said.

When the evacuation order was issued for Williams Lake on Saturday, July 15, Walgren said he was impressed by his employees.

“The order came down during the shift change so there was an added difficulty of getting people off site and corralling people who were coming to work letting them know they could not come in,” he said. “In 20 minutes, everyone was out and the building buttoned up.”

Both companies worked with fire departments brought in to help the Williams Lake Fire Dept. to set up sprinkler protection in and around the community.

“We had sprinklers on roofs, log decks and re-piles,” Walgren said, noting he was was grateful for the leadership shown by the incident commander in charge and the fire protection crew that managed the site.

“They were here to do a job,” Walgren said. “They were there to help us and we were here to help them. For us as employees we don’t know how to fight structure fires but the fire departments are trained to do that.”

Dextrase said one of the biggest challenges during the alerts and orders was communication.

“We tried to have as much one-on-one communication as possible with our employees, and with the fires flanking west of the Soda Creek mill area,” he said, noting the company used its website, Facebook and Twitter, plus set up a portal with other Tolko employees who had room for the evacuated employees and their families.

Aside from hosting evacuees, Walgren said employees from Smithers and Chetwynd came to Williams Lake for the week after the fires started, bringing cots, food and sprinklers.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Williams Lake RCMP are asking the public for assistance locating Marion Louise Billy. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake RCMP seek woman wanted for theft, weapon possession

RCMP released the information Thursday, May 6

Audrey McKinnon was officially named the NDP nominee for the federal riding of Cariboo-Prince George. (Twitter)
Audrey McKinnon confirmed as Cariboo Prince-George federal NDP nominee

The nomination comes during speculation the federal government

Gibraltar Mine general manager and community sports coach Ben Pierce moved to Williams Lake in 2008 for a career, and has fallen in love with the area while raising his family in the Cariboo. (Photo submitted)
OUR HOMETOWN: Mine manager on solid ground

Juggling academics, sports and a family was a challenge, but Pierce said he and Liselle made it work

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read