Dixie Wildfire Burnt Timber to Help Rebuild Destroyed Communities

Started by a tree falling on a power line, the Dixie Fire in California last summer seemed uncontrollable for weeks on end. The fire consumed whole hillsides of forest, coming close to several communities and destroying the town of Greenville in a matter of hours.

That was last summer. This summer is going to be different. The scars of the fire can be clearly seen for miles and miles in burnt hillside and forestland. However, there is hope. The burnt timber has value and the newly created sawmill in Crescent Mills, California, is working as quickly as possible to convert those burnt timbers into viable lumber products that can be used to rebuild the area.

Of course, time is running short on salvaging these burned logs. The burned logs are subject to insect attack, which can quickly turn a usable log into useless waste. Brian West of J&C Lumber said, “The race is on to get as much of this moved as we can in about a two- or three-year period.”

That is why this new sawmill was set up here. There was a mill there decades ago and the non-profit Sierra Institute had received grants through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency, for an environmental cleanup. The plan was to use the site for bio-mass green energy production, thinning the forest while producing hydrogen to fuel cars and machinery. The fire forced a new imperative and a change of plans.

“Take some of these burned trees and actually convert them into lumber,” says Jonathan Kusel of the Sierra Institute. “Higher value. Create some jobs. In the process with that lumber help rebuild Greenville and some of the other communities that were burned in the fire.”

The timber arriving at the mill is coming from small plots of private land around here. Normally it might go to a big timber operation, but the Dixie fire left so much burned timber on surrounding public land there’s no interest in working smaller plots. So, these logs would likely remain on the hillsides, if not for this sawmill.

Removing the burned and dead trees is just the start. Bringing the forest back will be a complex, time consuming process.

FEA compiles the Wood Markets News from various 3rd party sources to provide readers with the latest news impacting forest product markets. Opinions or views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of FEA.