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“This wood, although it looks very charred, it’s only burned in a millimetre into the stick,” Matt Willett explains. “So, this wood will end up going into home construction.”
Willett, director of operations for Wagner Forest Nova Scotia, has been working with residents in the Halifax area who were impacted by wildfires back in May and June.
With a crew of forestry workers, he’s been salvaging wood since the summer that’s made its way to Nova Scotia lumber yards.
“It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that some of the homes that are already being rebuilt in this area are going to come from the trees that were salvaged from the fire,” said Willett.
Currently, Willett and his team are on site at the ForestKids Early Learning Centre, a nature-oriented daycare that was destroyed during the fires.
“Just knowing that that wood is out there to help rebuild the houses that were destroyed, you know, means a lot and it will mean a lot to the children too,” said daycare owner and director Terri Kottwitz.
Some of the trees on her multiple acres of land are being removed and repurposed to help with regrowth and to ensure safety on the property for her student explorers.
“To have this property now that is going to regrow back again and the children get to see that, you know, the toddlers that we bring here at 18-months-old, what will they see when they’re five?” she wonders.
Alongside the loss of her business, Kottwitz and her husband also lost their home — something she says “was absolutely, positively devastating.”
“Our whole life is gone there, everything. Like, every last little thing” she said. “All of their clothing, all of their equipment, all of their forest stuff, it’s all gone.”
Now in the process of rebuilding the facility, cutting down potentially unsafe trees is another step towards business as usual.
“The trees that we’re removing, largely, are the softwood trees,” explains Willett. “They’re not very wind-firm and with them being dead we’re concerned that they may pose a hazard for the children. So, we’re removing those trees.”
Willett and his team feels that the hardwood trees on the property have a 50 per cent possibility of survival, so those trees are being left there to keep the forest vibrant and green.
“The forest is going to come back, the forest always comes back after disturbance and there’s been a lot of regrowth already,” said Willett.
“The hardwoods are coming back quite readily already, I suspect by this time next year most of the hardwoods will be about a metre tall in the disturbed areas.”
Willett says getting rid of the charred, black reminder of the trauma of the fires has been therapeutic for many residents that he’s worked with.
For Kottwitz, regrowth will also mean a beautiful learning experience for her students as they watch the forest regenerate.
“Seeing the forest today makes me smile like this for the first time, probably since this whole thing has happened,” she said.
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