Fire risks will increase if pulp mill shuts down

Opinion

To the Editor:

I was in forestry before there was a pulp mill; seven years cutting wood and 35 years trucking wood.

In 1976 there was a very bad fire at Porcupine Lake in Trafalgar. This fire was heading towards Sunnybrae and the residents were in fear of losing their homes. The truckers association rallied all available dump trucks and drivers (myself included) to help the residents of Sunnybrae evacuate. We helped the community by loading possessions onto our trucks and relocating the residents to safe places.

Luckily, the wind shifted and the fire moved to Caledonia, sparing the homes in Sunnybrae, but the fire caused enormous destruction to life in the forests. Approximately 35,000 acres of woodlands were lost to the flames. To put this into perspective; the five towns of Pictou, Trenton, Westville, Stellarton and New Glasgow is approximately 12,383 acres. We also lost a significant amount of wildlife. Fire has no mercy; killing all in its path, from very small animals and birds to the great bull moose.

It was realized that the loss to our woodlands and wildlife may not have been as severe if the roads had been available for machinery and people to get into the wood to fight the fire. In the years following, many roads were built to grant access to our woodlands. These roads allow trucks and heavy equipment to reach areas that would simply not be reachable. They were built and are maintained in partnership with private woodlot owners, the Department of Lands and Forestry and the pulp mill. The woodlands are 50 per cent pulp wood and these roads give access to product for the pulp mill and benefit the Department of Lands and Forestry by giving them the access to reach fires more quickly.

In 2018 there were 190 fires across Nova Scotia that burned 620 acres — 23 of those fires were in Pictou County, burning almost 66 acres. If the pulp mill closes, the maintenance of many of the wood roads will stop. We all know how quickly an unmaintained road deteriorates. Roads will wash out, trees will fall, bridges will collapse and areas of our woodlands will become inaccessible again, increasing the risk of another large fire like the Trafalgar fire of 1976.

Seymore Dewtie

Irish Mountain