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March : End of burnt logs is in sight after the devastating fires last year - MTO

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22 March, 2018

End of burnt logs is in sight after the devastating fires last year - MTO

End of burnt logs is in sight after the devastating fires last year - MTO

With approximately 600 000 m3 harvested on four major fronts, between Knysna and Jefferies Bay, the end of the burnt logs is in sight after the devastating fires last year.

"This could not have been accomplished without the same verve and focus people showed during the fires and a massive sustained effort since last year has culminated in the successful removal of extraordinary volumes of burnt logs, most which have found their way onto the local markets, and some to China," says Lawrence Polkinghorne, CEO of MTO Forestry Group.

"The operational complexity, financial impact and production capacity required to execute this project would have crippled most. There's no such thing as business as usual in today's ever-changing and dynamic world. We have been fortunate to be able to draw on our agility and resources to implement successful strategies that have resulted in positive impacts across the business.

"The fires that tore through the region are arguably the greatest in living memory and a reminder of how fragile our relationship is with nature. But by pulling together and giving their all, the various communities partnered with MTO Forestry to minimize the damage and then help the region rise from the ashes," says Polkinghorne.

He says the MTO Group was quick to mobilise its resources, not only to protect its own commercial plantations and the natural eco-assets in the area, but to help stop the disaster from spreading even further. It was able to use its partnerships to help firefighting efforts, such as coordinating with Vodacom to ensure fireteams have constant communications to coordinate their efforts.

The spirit of resilience

Nonetheless, the devastation has been incredible. More than 7 people died as a result and hundreds of homes burned to the ground. MTO Forestry lost thousands of hectares in its tree plantations, as well as one of its sawmills. But the major focus was on saving lives and bringing the fires under control.

"Through all the adversity we recognise the resilience and true spirit of our people, and the bravery and courage displayed by all those who have fought on the lines and assisted those that have been stranded and left homeless. Through it all there is still a strong sense of community that we only comprehend in times like these," says Polkinghorne.

All the houses on the Longmore plantation - over 200 people - were evacuated. Fortunately their homes could be saved thanks to the valiant efforts of firefighters, who fought the blaze all night. Other stories of heroism and altruism flooded out of the disaster, from those who risked their lives to save people and fight the fires to the tireless donations of time and goods from various communities to those in need.

"We take for granted the compassion and selflessness that people have in their DNA, it is now that we can be grateful to live amongst heroes," says Polkinghorne.

He says the overall impact on South Africa's forestry industry can't be understated: over a million cubic meters of timber may have been lost from the country's annual supply. But through the efforts of its staff and innovation, MTO Forestry has been able to salvage much of the damaged wood.

End of burnt logs is in sight End of burnt logs is in sight

MTO Group