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Fires are part of a forest's natural life cycle. Fire helps to clear away the underbrush, making it easier for young trees to grow. Without the seeds from mature trees, however, a new forest cannot grow. This is what happened on Vancouver Island . Loggers in the 1930s had taken away the oldest, most valuable trees. Then, in 1938, a forest fire devastated the rest of the forest, leaving the landscape blackened and scarred.  

CO posing for a photo in a burned out area of the forest.

 Gordon Dyck was one of the conscientious objectors who helped to give this forest new birth. He explains how the forest died and how he helped to revive it.


“The 1938 Campbell River fire had devastated a huge area and had ended the ear of railroad logging here. With the advent of large trucks, this method was being abandoned anyway. Railway beds had been laid down through the forest and the logs were drawn by long cable to the flat cars and loaded. Wherever one went, one would come upon a railway bed, every half mile [800 m] or so. Another unique feature, in absence of modern earth moving equipment and the presence of seemingly unlimited timber, was that all ravines and even low areas were bridged over. If an area called for a six-foot grade [1.8 m], it was bridged over rather than filled in with earth. One trestle was about 18 feet high [5.5 m] and half a mile long. Those bridges crossing ravines were often very high. It was as if the builders had said, “We can build a railway anywhere, just don't ask us to move any dirt.”


Abe Thiessen cutting down a large tree.

Logs at sawmill Logs on the sawmill skidway


“The fire had destroyed the longer trestles, but the remaining ones and the railways beds became our access routes to the camps and our work areas. As the logging method had been extremely wasteful, taking out only the best and convenient trees, the area was left with a great number of trees killed by the fire, that needed to be cut down to be able to control future fires. A dead and partly rotten standing tree called a “snag,” was considered a great fire hazard, as the fire would run up and the wind could then blow burning embers a considerable distance. So during the winter we cut them down and left them where they fell. Then in the cooler seasons of spring and fall, we planted seedling trees in these areas, right among the felled snag. Occasionally where loggers had taken nothing, these dead trees now lay crisscross in a six to eight foot [1.8 – 2.4 m] layer. We simply walked on top of this mess and jumped down here and there to plant a tree. We wore special logger's boots called caulk boots, with soles covered with short spikes. Every store in town had a sign prohibiting wearing them inside. The damage done to our bunk house floors was considerable.” [ASP, 59-60]


Sawmill interior Sawmill interior Sawmill exterior


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