In 1905, brothers Dominic and Patrick Burns purchased the land now known as Burns Bog with a dream to raise cattle and sheep. Unfortunately, the peaty soil was not the best for these animals and the brothers eventually moved further north, ending their dreams of having livestock on the bog lands.
In the 1930’s, peat extraction began to take place in Burns Bog. The peat was used for agricultural purposes due to its ability to retain water, and as a fuel to heat homes.
The site of the former Atkins & Durbrow Peat Company plant lies at the foot of 72nd Avenue, just off Westview Drive, and on the west side of the railway tracks. It was one of two plants the company constructed to process peat from Burns Bog from the 1940’s through to 1964.
At its peak, over 100 people worked at the plant mainly on digging and drainage. The plant also operated during the winter and workers were employed almost year-round. Following the outbreak of World War II, peat was no longer exported from Europe to the United States and a new supplier was needed. In 1942, British Columbia provided 53 per cent of Canada’s total peat production and Burns Bog was a major source.
The peat was cut by hand and stacked in piles to drain. When partially dry, it was transported to the plant, chopped, aerated, dried, baled, and shipped south on Great Northern Railway to the United States. Peat was used to pack munitions and was an important catalyzer for magnesium, used in the production of incendiary bombs.
More than 100,000 bales of peat from Burns Bog were shipped to munition factories in Nevada. After the War, peat reverted to being an agricultural and forestry product. In 1964, the plant was bought by Western Peat Company. As the business was not profitable, the plant stood idle for many years before being torn down in the late 1980s.
Workers harvest peat in Burns Bog, 1947.
Image i-27869 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum.
Workers pile harvested peat in Burns Bog, 1947.
Image i-27875 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum.