On the fire line: Siegmund’s new system makes short work of steep slopes

October, 2017 Posted in Business, Community, Nature

By Mary Owen

Siegmund Excavation & Construction’s new logging harvest system helped firefighters contain recent area fires.

“This logging harvest system was able to cut close to one mile of fire line through standing timber on steep slopes in approximately three days,” said Andrew Siegmund, owner of Siegmund Excavation. “The same task performed by hand-crews would have potentially taken 20-40 men two to three weeks to complete with great personal risk.”

Most recently, the system was used to cut a fire line on land owned by Freres Lumber Co. and Marion Forks Investment to protect their private timberlands from a fire advancing off of Forest Service land, Siegmund said.

“The timber manager for Freres Lumber Co., Todd Parker, called and asked us to bring a feller-buncher to cut trees on Freres timberlands where they were establishing a fire line for the Whitewater Fire east of Detroit,” he explained.

“After arriving onsite, we discovered the steep slope harvesting system could be of use. Our tethered base machine was brought in to work in tandem with our steep slope harvester (feller-buncher). Dozers and hand-crews followed behind, getting it down to bare dirt, forming the fire line.”

Brent O’Nion, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Whitewater Fire branch director, credited the company’s new equipment for helping to halt the fire more efficiently than by age-tested methods.

“It allowed us to get fire line established in a very rapid manner,” O’Nion said. “A job that normally would have taken days with the old-fashioned hand crews was accomplished in less than a day. It is a huge technological advance.”

In May 2016, Siegmund Excavation & Construction was the first company in Oregon to apply for and receive a variance from OR-OSHA to operate steep slope harvesting equipment.

The technology, new to North America and originally introduced in New Zealand, is a winch-assist system for harvesting trees on steep terrain that would have previously been hand-felled by men with chainsaws and logged up the slopes with a yarder. Thw new set-up includes a base machine with a winch-assist cable system and an adapted feller-buncher for use on steep slopes.

“A 50 percent grade is the legal cutoff to put ground-based machines on a slope,” Siegmund said. “With the OR-OSHA variance and this new system, it allows us to go up to 100 percent slope in safe, secure machinery. The steep slope harvesting method solves two challenges in the timber industry: worker safety and lack of available workforce.

“This logging harvest system allows fire lines to be cut in standing timber in an extremely fast, efficient manner, with little to no risk to employees on the ground,” he added.

“It can also replace the need for hand fallers and buckers to manually cut trees to create a fire line, which is an extremely hazardous job.”

In terms of environmental impact, the EMS steep slope system has “a surprisingly light footprint,” Siegmund said.

“Soil disturbance with this method is less than with conventional methods,” he added.

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