Tony McKee, a sawyer at Gogo’s Sawmill, near Nanaimo, cuts lumber and a construction timber from a fir log. The mill converted 32 logs into enough timber in a few hours last week to build four helicopter landing pads that will be used to help fight wildfires on the north Island. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo sawmill supplies wood for helicopter landing pads in wildfire fight

Gogo’s Sawmill fills timber order for B.C. Wildfire Service helicopter pads

A private sawmill near Nanaimo is supplying wood to help to fight wildfires on the north Island.

Gogo’s Sawmill and Christmas Tree Farm had to fill a rush order from the B.C. Wildfire Service last week for 32 23-by-23 centimetre by 4.9-metre-long timbers to build helicopter landing pads.

Mike Gogo, mill owner, said the province placed the order at 4 p.m. Thursday and they were ready by lunchtime Friday after a 5 a.m. start.

The order, which has been shipped to Woss camp, is enough timber to make four helicopter pads.

“We’ve cut them for the last three years in a row. We are the successful bidder,” Gogo said.

He went on to say orders such as the one Thursday must be filled in a hurry, the timbers are ordered in small batches and are very specific in their dimensions. Operations the size of Gogo’s, he said, are especially good at filling these types of custom orders.

“The big mills, they just can’t curtail their production. They’re not geared for it at all and I don’t blame them,” Gogo said. “The small mills don’t have the quality of timber or the readiness.”

The timbers were cut from Gogo’s Crown land woodlot. The sawmill harvests from a combined total of about 445 hectares of Crown woodlot and private land.

“If you own a certain amount of acreage, timber, as a private person and you pledge that to the province for 25 years that you will not log it or subdivide it, then they give you, if you’re successful, a good-sized piece of Crown land and you put the two together, so ours together is about 1,100 acres.”

Under the deal, Gogo can harvest whatever grows annually.

“So if it’s 50 loads of logs, we’re allowed to take that 50 and every year we reforest it, thin it out, fertilize it, all that kind of stuff, and we give public access to it for recreational purposes … in theory, the amount of wood we have should never be less than the day we started because we only take what it grows. Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole world was like that?”

The 182-hectare Nanaimo Lakes fire that broke out in early August came within about three kilometres of Gogo’s land, which encompasses the company’s timber and Christmas tree operations.

“And that was scary because you can’t insure Christmas trees or timber,” Gogo said. “We’ve got a million bucks worth of Christmas trees here … This will be our 89th year in the Christmas tree business.”
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