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By Jeff White on août 17 2017
This summer has taken an unusual turn with all of the forest fires in British Columbia. 100 Mile House was evacuated for a couple of weeks, and after everyone had secured their belongings and families, West Fraser was challenged to find everyone somewhere to work to keep us going during this time. People from our office in 100 Mile House who had somewhere to stay in areas nearby that were not evacuated were able to work at the Chasm office. Others who evacuated worked from other West Fraser divisions in Quesnel and Fraser Lake. Several of the students also went up to Fraser Lake for a couple weeks.
My family lives in an area that is northeast of town and was not in the evacuation order zone but remained on an alert for the duration of the Gustafsen fire. I was lucky because one of our Logging Supervisors lives in the same area and I was able to work with him for a week doing road inspections and checking for potential lightning strikes in the region. Road inspections are an important part of West Frasers Environmental Management System because of the impact that is made on the land by all our forest roads. This involved assessing the roads for risk based on criteria like erosion, material type, culvert and bridge installation, presence of fish bearing streams while also determining the need to continue to keep the road in our system for future development needs. It was also interesting to be able to pick the brain of our Logging Supervisor who has been working in the industry for 35+ years.
The next week they reopened 100 Mile House and meanwhile the Elephant Hill fire had grown significantly and was heading towards our Chasm operation. A number of fires guards have been installed all around the perimeter and the fire is still a very active threat. During this week I was asked to work night shift on the Fire Guard at the 100 Mile House Mill adjacent to the Gustafsen Fire. The fire has been contained but there are still lots of hot spots that are popping up, particularly when the winds are strong.
This week we are getting back into regular planning work in the parts of our operating area that are not on fire or on evacuation alert. It is certainly nice to get back into a normal schedule. This has definitely been a fire season that no one imagined could get to this level. Most recently, the Elephant Hill Fire continues to burn out of control and has forced the evacuation of the Village of Clinton which is 1 hour south of our 100 Mile Office and 15 minutes from the Chasm Mill. This fire has also forced the evacuation of Green Lake, which is also located south of 100 Mile House and is a very popular summer destination for tourists and “cabin-goers”. At this point, everyone is praying for rain, we have only had 1.5mm of rain in July and there is no sign rain in the forecast. We all hope that this situation will improve soon but it certainly will be a summer that no one will ever forget.