After the fires, the uncertain future of burned wood

published on Monday, September 19, 2022 at 10:17 p.m.

What to do with the trees that were burned in the summer fires? The forestry sector has started a race against time in Gironde to save what can be saved, while affected owners are concerned about prices.

Since the beginning of September, forestry companies have been authorized to invest part of the pine plots devastated during the summer on more than 25,000 hectares around La Teste-de-Buch, near the Bassin d’Arcachon, and Landiras, in the South. from Bordeaux.

It was not until there was a risk of the fire reigniting that it had burned to the ground for a long time before felling and skidding machines could spring into action, and this is not yet the case everywhere.

In Guillos, a village of 500 souls near Landiras that was evacuated in July, almost the entire forested area was covered in flames.

“Right here, I must have 250 hectares to cut,” says Ludovic De Zangroniz, an operator commissioned by an owner to intervene.

In front of him, 50-year-old pines stand on sandy soil blackened by ash, still standing despite the fire that burned their roots.

“There are two on the side of the road, I wonder how they are. We are trying to treat the trees as quickly as possible because everything has burned and they are no longer supplied,” explains the professional, showing the needles. that turn red at the summit, a sign of drought.

Lumberjacks carefully cut down the largest pines, which can provide lumber (parquet, coffering, siding, framing, etc.); later, a machine tackles young trees, whose wood is destined to be shredded to end up in paper, cardboard or plywood panels. When it is not shredded on the spot, in sheer loss, because it is useless.

But cutting is not enough: once sawn, the wood is prey to parasites such as bark beetles, or fungi that turn it blue, are already appearing on certain stumps.

“We must find outlets quickly, otherwise it will deteriorate and lose value,” said Mr De Zangroniz.

– Emergency –

“The emergency is to save everything we can: depending on how the fire has passed, the wood did not burn completely, only the bark; inside, the wood is usable”, adds Jean-Francois Labrousse.

For this manager of a family sawmill in Préchac, where the logs blackened by the flames parade, “we must give priority, throughout the region, to the treatment of burned wood.”

This is the slogan given to the forestry sector in New Aquitaine, says Stéphane Latour, director of the Fibois association, which federates the various interprofessions, for the Landes de Gascony.

It evokes a question of security, before the pines that threaten to fall at the first gust of wind, and a question of health: the insects that proliferate in the weakened trees could later attack the others.

“If we haven’t cleaned everything before spring, there will be a risk of further degradation of our forests,” said the manager.

But the affected owners are also concerned about prices given the influx of wood on the market: more than 2.5 million cubic meters, or half a year of maritime pine production on the scale of New Aquitaine.

A volume “disproportionate” with the stocks resulting from the Klaus storm in 2009 (45 million m3), relativizes Mr. Latour.

Still, a price drop of 30-40% has been mentioned in the press. “It makes people rush,” laments Labrousse.

Practice a discount of 15 to 20% to compensate for the loss of profit in the recovery of the burned bark. For the healthy parts, in height, buy the wood at the same price as before.

“Everyone should play the game to those who have toasted. Thirty thousand hectares is only a tiny part of the massif, but some owners have lost everything”, he underlines.

Ludovic De Zangroniz also calls for general solidarity in the sector, but is skeptical. “Scorched wood, sometimes has a good spine.”

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