Within days of the runaway fires that swept through their Pinewoods and Shafton plantations on ‘Red Monday’ (25 June), Sappi staff were swinging into action with a massive salvage operation. Their objective: to extract as much timber as possible from the burnt compartments, and to prepare the fire-ravaged land for re-planting in time for the summer rains.

Sappi's salvage operation swings into action
Sappi’s KZN Regional Manager, Leander Jarvel (left),
and Logistics and Fibre Supply Manager KZN Alan
Thistle inspecting a fire-damaged compartment at
Shafton. The timber will be sorted into ‘good, bad
and ugly’, with the ugly sold as sawlogs and the ‘
good’ and ‘bad’ hauled to an irrigated depot for
cleaning and de-barking.

 

A visit to the two KZN Midlands plantations a few weeks after the fire revealed the full extent of the devastation – and the resources and effort that would be required to clear and re-plant the burnt compartments.

A bulldozer was busy knocking over young pine trees on Pinewoods that had been scorched. The stems were too small to be salvaged. The bulldozer would be required to make a second pass with a chopper-roller to cut up the young trees, and the compartment would be ripped in a third pass to prepare for re-planting.

Bigger trees would be harvested, and the timber sorted into what Sappi’s Logistics and Fibre Supply Manager KZN, Alan Thistle, referred to as the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’. The ‘ugly’ would be sold as sawlogs, while the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ would be moved to a specially constructed irrigated depot where it would be stored prior to being sold into various markets.

At Shafton a bulldozer was busy ripping a compartment that had been planted last summer. There was no sign of the young trees that had been growing so well before the fire.

Sappi’s KZN Regional Manager Leander Jarvel gave some indication of the magnitude of the task that lay ahead. Planned silviculture and harvesting schedules in the province have been thrown into disarray and must now be re-scheduled to take the salvage work into account. This, he explained, would have an impact on activities and schedules for years to come.

“For instance, the seedling order has grown by an additional 2.7 million Pinus patula seedlings overnight.”

Sappi’s own nurseries won’t be able to meet these requirements, so seedlings are going to have to be sourced from commercial nurseries country-wide to make up the numbers.

Meanwhile, Alan is responsible for keeping the mills supplied with sufficient quantities of pulpwood, which is going to be a challenge requiring a lot of innovation.

Published in July/August 2007



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