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Forestry activity put on hold in Northern Ontario


July 22, 2021
By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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A wood chip pile is seen at the Resolute Forest Products’ Thunder Bay plant. (Photo: Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal)

THUNDER BAY — Several road work and forestry operations have come to a halt as the province takes additional measures to reduce the likelihood of human-caused fires in Northwestern Ontario.

Suspensions and restrictions are in place under the authority of an emergency order on higher-risk forestry operations that have the potential to cause sparks and ignite fires.

Included in the list of work suspended is the use of mechanized power equipment and power saws for harvesting or processing wood, blasting related to road work, and all welding, torching and grinding.

The destruction of forests from fire, combined with the halting of forestry operations, can have an impact on pulp, paper and softwood lumber production.

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Resolute Forest Products “should be OK” in the next couple weeks, says Seth Kursman, vice-president of corporate communications, sustainability and government affairs, with Resolute Forest Products.

But he says he can’t say what will happen in the future.

“I think we are all praying for rain,” says Kursman. “In the short term we’re OK but we certainly, understand and support the province. We need to put safety and security first and foremost. The province is doing that and we certainly support them.”

Logs, which are referred to as “fibre” in the industry, come into the sawmills in Thunder Bay, Atikokan or Ignace where lumber is produced. Kursman explained that residual chips from the production are brought from the sawmills to the Thunder Bay Resolute plant to make pulp and paper.

“Right now we have quite a bit of fibre in the wood yards at the sawmills as well at the pulp and paper mill and there are several weeks here where we should be OK,” he said.

In a release to The Chronicle-Journal, Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, says the restrictions are critical to help ensure Ontario’s resources can fight existing and forecasted fires in the extreme fire situation across Northwestern Ontario.

“The seriousness of forest fires that are blanketing our Northwest makes restricting industrial operations that could cause new fires necessary to protect public safety — which is our top priority,” said Rickford.

“We did not take this action lightly and we appreciate our industry partners coming together to support the community and the work of our wildland firefighters.”

Kursman says Resolute Forest Products fully supports the minister’s decision.

“We understand very much and support Minister Rickford’s leadership — he’s doing the right thing,” says Kursman. “We, as a company, say safety is a number one priority and it needs to be first and foremost. We hope this situation is abated with much needed rain in the coming days and weeks.”


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