Not So Friendly Forest Fire

The summer of 2017 brought catastrophic fires to California, Oregon, and other western states. Chris Chase, Timberland Manager at Michigan-California Timber Company and a recent Governor appointee to the California Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection board, shares his insights on sustainable forest management, wildfires, and the wood products industry.


."“Three primary factors influence the intensity of a fire season: weather conditions, ignition sources and fuels,” Chase explained. “In 2017, we had a hazardous combination of all three."

“Four years of unprecedented drought created a lot of dead trees that became fuel for the fire. A wet winter led to a prolific grass crop which provided an abundance of fine fuels on the forest floor, in the chaparral, and in grassland zones. Then we had a dry, windy summer with lightning episodes - the ignition source. This ‘ideal’ combination of factors came together to give us this devastating fire season.”

Forest Fires: Mother Nature’s Way of Clearing Out the Clutter

Before human settlement, fires were part of the natural life cycle of the forest. According to the National Park Service, “Fire reduces dead vegetation, stimulates new growth, and improves habitat for wildlife. With fire suppression... fuels, such as dead trees, pine needles, leaf litter, and shrubs build up to unnatural levels in forests

“In the past 25 years or so, timber harvest levels have dropped significantly in California and the western United States. Yet we continue to suppress fires, and that’s a big part of the reason why we have the catastrophic fires that we do,” Chase said.

Timberlands and Environmental Stewardship

Timber Products Company is a major purchaser of US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management timber. This environmental stewardship helps reduce the excess growth that can fuel devastating wildfires. 

  • Our Registered Professional Foresters work together with wildlife and fisheries managers to develop forest management and harvest plans that promote biodiversity and wildlife conservation.
  • On our private timberlands, we balance harvest and growth to ensure that we have wood products for decades to come while mitigating the risk of wildfire.
  • Michigan-California Timber Company adheres to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the comprehensive California Forest Practices Act, the toughest set of forest protection laws in the country.

Utilizing Fire-Salvaged Wood

Timber Products Company also purchases substantial quantities of fire-killed timber. Our Yreka plant produces softwood veneer from wildfire-damaged wood. Logs that do not meet our high standards are chipped instead. Manager Michael Don explains, “The challenge is to make sure we convert it into veneer form as quickly as possible after the fire. Once staining sets in, or bugs get to it, the wood is less desirable.”  

For more information on our forest land management, be sure to read about Timber Products’ sustainable forest practices. We hope that 2018 brings less devastating forest fires.

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