Loggers arriving at cut block A87125 in the forest above Roberts Creek Monday morning were greeted by a flaming log blockade across the access road.

The fiery obstacle is the latest salvo in a confrontation that has been simmering since Peninsula Logging won a B.C. Timber Sales auction for the 18-hectare mixed forest earlier this year.

“We thought there would be a protester presence here, but we didn’t expect this,” said Aaron Service, co-owner of Peninsula Logging. “Every time they pull something like this it costs (the crew) about two hours work.”

Several groups of protesters have been camping in the woods near the cut block over the summer, watching for activity on the site.

But with logging now in full swing, the opposition has escalated to protest rallies, road blockades and arrests. Some protesters have entered the worksite.

“It’s extremely dangerous,” Service said of the incursions. “We don’t want to see anyone get killed.”

Over the past two weeks, nine people have been arrested on the forest service road leading to the site for violating a Supreme Court injunction, according to Sechelt RCMP spokesman Harrison Mohr.

Peninsula obtained a temporary injunction to stop protesters from interfering with logging activity late in August. Attempts by the protest group Elphinstone Logging Focus to lift the injunction were unsuccessful.

“We have a real problem with the way they obtained their injunction, it was an underhanded process,” said Ross Muirhead, founder of ELF. “They went to a judge in Vernon and because it was a ex parte (single party) decision, they didn’t even notify us, so we couldn’t make a submission.”

The ELF took no responsibility for Monday’s fiery blockade, though the group has participated in several protests and blockades

When protesters blockaded the road Friday, the RCMP came to enforce the injunction.

One woman, who calls herself Salamander, attached herself to a piece of heavy equipment by the neck with a bicycle lock.

“I care about the natural world and this is an endangered ecosystem,” she said. “There aren’t many places like this in the world.”

A complaint lodged by ELF to the Forest Practices Board contends that the work site and the area surrounding should be protected as a vulnerable “blue-listed” ecosystem, with characteristics similar to the Great Bear Rainforest. That investigation may take months to complete, said Muirhead.

Logging opponents claim the cut block is in an area of emerging old growth – an old growth forest that was razed by fire about 150 years ago, but never logged. Many of the older trees still standing show scars from that fire.

The cut block also falls within the boundaries of a 1,500-hectare expansion of Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park proposed by the official community plan for Roberts Creek. The park is divided into three widely separated parcels totalling 139 hectares.

“The park as it exists today is divided into three tiny ecological islands. We would like to see a contiguous park in place,” said Muirhead. “We hope this protest raises the profile of the park expansion campaign and makes it very clear to B.C. Timber Sales that cut block sales within the park expansion area are unwelcome.”

All the protesters have been released with a Promise to Appear in Supreme Court in Vancouver Sept. 26.

“Because the court process relates to contempt of court rather than Criminal Code offences, there are no criminal charges, and Sunshine Coast RCMP is not able to release the names of the persons arrested,” said Mohr.

Peninsula will pay about $1.3 million to the provincial government for the right to harvest cedar, fir and hemlock, much of it for utility poles and lumber to be processed by Teal Jones and Coastland Wood Industries in B.C.

Old growth Douglas firs — many of them 500-600 years old — are left standing. The project will employ 10 people for about six months, said Service.