Fibre, Forests and Fire: Managing the Mix at the Urban Interface


Wildfires have become an all-too common and at times terrifying reality during dry seasons in the BC interior – sometimes leading to highway and airport closures, evacuation orders, and large-scale property loss.

Our Skookumchuck mill is involved in an initiative that forms part of broader provincial efforts to reduce wildfire risk, in this case by removing highly combustible wood waste from near inhabited areas. And in the process it is tapping into an additional source of fibre for use at the mill.

In 2020 the mill contracted to do second-pass fibre-recovery on nearby Crown and City of Cranbrook-owned lands, and committed to achieve 100 per cent utilization.

The mill employs local contractors to harvest trees that were deemed unmerchantable for sawmilling by the companies who hold the forest tenures. (Enough forest cover is left to meet ecological standards.) They also recover tree tops and other forms of fibre that can be used at our mill, if not as chips for manufacturing then as biomass for clean energy generation.

The amount of fibre generated is modest relative to overall mill needs, but was particularly welcome during recent periods when fibre from conventional sources was in short supply. A grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, in partnership with the BC and federal governments, supported project feasibility by offsetting some of the transportation costs.

That public investment, in this and similar projects elsewhere in BC, was justified not just by reduced risk of fire, but by other benefits as well. The more complete removal of wood waste better supports both forest regeneration and other regionally important land uses such as livestock and wildlife grazing.

Would you like to learn more about our recent performance and our long-term vision? Visit the Sustainability Report page on our website.
There you can read our full 2019-2020 Sustainability Report, the four-page summary report, and our Practices and Perspective on-the-ground stories.