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Major lumber donation aims to help rebuild Lytton

Russell Hixson: One step towards recovery, rebuilding what was lost.

Five-hundred-thousand board feet of lumber is standing by to help rebuild the community of Lytton, which was almost completely destroyed in a wildfire.

Fire swept through the town during a blistering heat wave that saw the region see the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada: 49.6 degrees. Two were killed. The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the RCMP.

The lumber comes from Teal-Jones Group, the largest privately-owned timber harvesting and primary lumber product manufacturing company in B.C.

“They had about 15 minutes to get their things and leave,” said Teal-Jones spokesperson Jack Gardner, great-grandson of company founder Jack Jones. “I don’t even know what I would do if that was me. My thoughts go out to those people. When we heard, we just thought about what we could do.”

Gardner said the company has been logging in the area for 30 years and some employees and contractors were impacted. One young employee was working at a mill when he learned his home had been completely destroyed.

“Being at work and finding out your house has burned up – that is devastating,” said Gardner. “It’s terrible. We have been logging here for 30 years. This is in our backyard and we want to help our neighbours.”

Gardner said it is roughly enough wood for 50 three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes. He has already been getting calls from truckers, painters and builders who want to help with the transport and construction process.

“It’s important for us that we give back to the community,” said Gardner. “I would encourage others to get out there and maybe do the same and help with rebuilding the community of Lytton.”

The company, which began in New Westminster in 1946, makes products using red cedar, southern yellow pine, tonewood, western red cedar and whitewood.

Earlier this month the B.C. government and the Government of Canada announced it will match all donations to the Canadian Red Cross up to $20 million.

Russell Hixson is the staff writer for the Journal of Commerce where he covers the construction industry.  Before that, he spent years in the U.S. as an investigative crime reporter. He lives in East Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @RussellReports.