July August, 2004

 

 

 

 

When the Dust Settles…

Warner Enterprises expands, diversifies and succeeds

By Kurt Glaeseman

Calcium Chloride, for dust control, can be applied from a trailer that loads from the top and unloads from the bottom.

How much dust does a logger eat during a lifetime? The question has relevance for Paul Warner of Warner Enterprises in Redding, Calif. Warner, who studied practical forestry at Humboldt State, started working with Pacific Gas & Electric in 1967. He helped manage over 250,000 acres of PG&E forestland from the Oregon border south to Bakersfield. At first his move to the corporate office in San Francisco seemed like a well-paved career path, but Warner started missing daily interaction with trees, dirt and open space with clean air. “I was doing lots of driving,” he says, “living in motels, and missing my two small sons. It was time to make a change.”

Paul Warner does a quick inspection in the yard.

Creating a Company
Warner had made useful forestry contacts in the Redding area, and the family resettled there in 1977. He felt he had two major options: “I could hitch my wagon to a particular mill like Sierra Pacific and count on them to come up with enough work to keep me busy…or I could stay independent and pick up strange jobs like clearing power lines and cleaning up post-catastrophe events—like after a major fire.” Warner chose the latter. As a Licensed Forester, Warner did some consulting and worked with harvest plans, but by 1980 he had bought a skidder and a water truck and declared himself a logger. 1983 was a big year for Warner Enterprises: “Wood-fire-powered plants got us rolling. It started in Burney and soon moved to Anderson, and I started gearing up for bio-mass.”

The new direction was accelerated by the need to thin in order to improve forest growth, and Warner invested in whole tree chippers, shears and feller bunchers. By 1987 he was running several logging and chipping sides, with a payroll of 30 employees. His son Eric started driving a water truck when he was 15 years old and gradually worked into manager of the entire maintenance and repair operation. Another son, Gary, went to college to become a journalism and communication major, but chose to come back and work with his dad. Warner’s two chip sides use a Moorbark 5036 and a Precision Husky 2366, with Timberjack and Caterpillar skidders and two Caterpillar Hi-Drive tractors. About 60 percent of the cutting is contracted out. A slightly higher percentage of the mechanical and hand cutting is contracted out with the logging sides, where Warner has had good success with a Timberjack 608, a Franklin 3600 and a Moorbark Wolverine feller buncher.

Logs are loaded with a LinkBelt 3400 and a Prentice 410, both of which draw praise from Warner. “Our future in forestry and logging and fuel reduction is going to be formed by the President’s Healthy Forests goals. There are two distinct phases: fire resistance using a combination of regular feller bunchers and skidders and chippers; and fuel reduction by mastication, where fuel is not physically removed from the site but re-arranged so it won’t be available for a fire.”

Paul Warner proudly runs Franklin 3650 tricle with a Fecon bull Hog Masticating Head with carbide-tipped teeth.

Continuing to Expand
Always open to new ideas, Warner started moving toward brush mastication in 2001. He purchased his first Franklin 4550 Brush Cutter, liked it, and decided to become a Franklin dealer. The Cummins engine, the hydrostatic variable displacement power train, and the hydraulic quick steering system are standard for both the C4550 and the C4950 models. When Warner got to know the Fecon Bull Hog Masticating Head with carbide-tipped teeth, he decided to be a dealer for Fecon, too. The in-field track records are important to Warner, who would never agree to be a dealer until he knew the machinery products inside and out. 

Opportunities to use the Franklin and Fecon machinery presented still more options. As the company became aware of specialized treatment areas, Warner had to decide if he was willing to operate a crew or crews outside the Redding area. The answer: Let’s take the risk. Operating from a distance, Warner set up a side 90 miles south of Ely, Nevada, where BLM had a 640- acre tract subdivided into 5-acre plots, currently holding 40 homes. The task? Put a fuel buffer around the subdivision and down the access road. BLM had already experienced a 4-hour 15,000 acre fire in the area when juniper and pinon pine had literally exploded. The Warner side is currently responsible for cutting, chopping and removing this dangerous fuel, and the operation is proceeding smoothly. A second “distant” side is near Yuma, Arizona, where California, New Mexico and Arizona come together near the Colorado River.

Timberjack 460 skidder in the Warner Enterprises yard.

This is a large vegetable growing area in the winter, using delta land formed as the river spreads out after a series of dams. Tamarisk, a vegetation sometimes called “salt cedar,” has taken over, eliminating native cottonwoods and mesquite. A wildfire in March 2003 burned 400 acres, so the BLM decided to grind the skeletons and young green tamarisk and replant to cottonwoods. Enter the Warner team with a 4-wheel Franklin 4550 and a Fecon Bull Hog 120. “We literally rototill the tamarisk,” explains Warner, “and we work around flagged mesquite, which we hope will sprout from the roots. We’re doing fine, but it is an incredibly dusty business.”

Dusty Diversification
So how much dust must a logger eat? The answer is, you may not have to eat it at all, especially if you can turn it into money first. Always looking for ways to diversify, Warner channeled his energy into Dust Control and Road Stabilization and soon offered a new service—to supply and apply flake calcium chloride, a dry, benign substance that looks like rock salt. Manufactured in Minnesota, the calcium chloride has proven effective to control road dust all summer long, to stabilize road gravel, to provide a high quality road surface, and to reduce grading and maintenance costs. Again Warner had to specialize in procedure and machinery.

The most efficient method is to send a rail car of the calcium chloride as near as possible to the target area. Then it is dumped onto a conveyer and into a truck or a big grain trailer that loads from the top and dumps at the bottom. Application is controlled by a combination of a radar gun that determines how fast the applicator is traveling and a computer that signals the release of the correct quantity. When the process is finished, the gravel roadbed looks like it has a covering of light snow. The calcium chloride attracts moisture from wherever it can find it—from the gravel, from the air—and seals it on the road.

This is much easier to control and much safer than earlier applications of magnesium. In 2003 Warner Enterprises applied a little over a thousand tons of calcium chloride—85 percent on logging roads, 10 percent on wildfire access roads, and the remainder on miscellaneous lots and driveways. The savings in time, water truck expenditures, and maintenance are impressive. “Yeah,” adds Warner, “ we’ve had a good season. We see this as having great potential on wildfires and logging roads. But we haven’t scratched the surface yet. I think the possibilities for using calcium chloride for controlling dust in vineyards, or any kind of fruit, for that matter, are great. We just have to settle in, demonstrate the value, and make it happen.” Warner has never been afraid to embrace diversity to stay in the competition. Some folks learned long ago to turn lemons into lemonade. He turns dust into dollars.

TW

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 02, 2004