Burners were part of every sawmill operation
Although burners like the one at the former Revelstoke site in east Sundre are no longer used at sawmills in Alberta, they were an integral part of every operation back in the earlier days of the industry, says Chester Mjolsness.
Starting in the lumber industry west of Sundre in the early 1940s, Mjolsness and his brother Lloyd went on to own Spray Lakes in Cochrane. In an interview last week, he explained that the burners were the only practical way to get rid of the wood byproduct of milling operations back in the day.
“Any with any size production at all had to have a burner to get rid of the waste,” he said. “They called them Tee Pee type burners. They were used to burn up slabs and sawdust and shavings mainly.”
Mjolsness says he remembers the daily work needed to keep the burner up and running smoothly.
“We had a 12-foot chain in the end of a long cable and you used to have to go all the way around the burner and flip this chain up and down to knock all the soot out so the fire would burn,” he said.
Although the burners are now gone, Mjolsness says the current practice of using the waste is a much better way to go.
“Today the bigger mills all chip their wood for pulp mills and there are different things being done with the sawdust, and nobody burns anymore,” he said.
“They utilize everything. It was a real waste to burn it but there was no real opportunity to use it in those days. We didn’t have the roads to haul it out on and there was no market for the waste.”
“With this global warming, they were condemned more or less because they produced quite a bit of smoke, especially when they were started up in the morning.”
Although the Sundre burner hasn’t been used since the Revelstoke mill closed in the 1980s, it has recently found a new use: as a resting place for deer keeping out of the weather.
“I guess the burners have now all gone the way of the grain elevators,” said Mjolsness.