Few logs means no mill work

April 08, 2003 11:00 pm

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Beginning tomorrow, Sierra Pacific Industries will shut its Chinese Camp sawmill for three weeks.

Thirty-seven sawmill crew members will be temporarily laid off, but the remaining workers — those in the log yard, dry kilns, planer and shipping — will still work, said Ed Bond, SPI spokesman.

"We recognize that this layoff is hard on our crew members and their families, but we will continue to provide their health benefits," Bond said. All laid-off employees will resume the same jobs when the mill opens again.

The Chinese Camp mill cuts smaller logs, such as small trees cleared in fire fuel reduction projects, Bond said. Those projects remove small trees and underbrush to prevent them from fueling a catastrophic wildfire.

Spring is generally slow for loggers, as muddy forests make it difficult to haul logs out without damaging the environment or equipment. Usually SPI stockpiles logs from the summer before to keep mills running until loggers hit the woods again the next year, Bond said.

This year, Bond said SPI's backup supply is three weeks short.

Temporary layoffs are not uncommon at this time of year, Bond said. In April 2001, Chinese Camp closed for a week. But this year's is the longest suspension the mill has endured.

Bond said the layoff was not a surprise to the SPI office or workers in the mill.

"The employees watch the log deck, the supply," he said.

The layoff should not last longer than three weeks, but Bond said no one would return to work early.

Bond said he hopes new projects for fire fuel reduction will put more logs in the mill and prevent the layoff from happening again next year.

"I think that there's hope," he said. "That's why we're encouraging the community and community leaders to support the Forest Service in their efforts to put up some timber sales."