Wildfires Across Canada Forcing Sawmill Closures

Canada has been experiencing some of the most widespread and dangerous wildfire seasons in recent years. The crisis has driven many small businesses to close but has also impacted prominent, large-scale manufacturers in the wood industry as well. Sawmills have been forced to shut down or delay production in recent months. Wildfires have caused lumber prices for July to surge 6.8% in just one week according to The Canadian Press.

The fires have pressured mills and woodland operations to seize as they cannot operate right now due to safety issues. “It’s significant. Closing mills and having to restart them is a lot of work and that’s people who have to be laid off temporarily,” said Derek Nighbor, CEO of FPAC. The wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta have forced a downturn in production and closures at sawmills. Quebec’s Resolute Forest Products have temporarily halted production of their four sawmills in the province due to the fires and a wood shortage. “Although wildfire is a natural part of forest regeneration, the unseasonal heat and lack of rain has prompted many fires to erupt at the same time, making them very difficult to manage,” Resolute spokesperson Seth Kursman said.

“For Resolute, we are particularly impacted by the boreal forest devastation in Quebec, where 2023 is already shaping up the be the worst year in over three decades in terms of the extent of area affected,” said Kursman. “Although wildfire is a natural part of forest regeneration, the unseasonal heat and lack of rain has prompted many fires to erupt at the same time, making them very difficult to manage.”

Quebec Experienced Biggest Impact on Operations

The province of Quebec has so far experienced some of the most prominent impacts in the last few weeks to its sawmills. Forest fires have in the past proven to be a contributing factor to higher lumber prices due to limited supply or to investors stocking up due to an anticipated closure or limited lumber supply. Another sawmill in the province, Chantiers Chibougamau has been forced to shut down its Nordic Kraft mill after a wildfire spread within 500 metres of the facility.

There are currently 133 wildfires burning across Quebec affecting more than 900,000 hectares. The most impacted areas in the province include Cote-Nord, Nord-du-Quebec, Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Laurentides, Lanaudiere, Mauricie, and Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean, with most fires being in Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Cote-Nord, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, and Nord-du-Quebec.

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