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Wood to Burn

Home heating prices, DEC regulations have significant effect on firewood business

August 10, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

Firewood is making a comeback.

With fossil fuel prices soaring, many people are going into firewood harvesting and sales. New regulations keep that wood from traveling very far.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation emergency regulations limit the sale of firewood to a 50-mile radius from where it was harvested. This is to limit the spread of insects and diseases - by hunters, campers and others using the forest - that might threaten tree growth.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Tiffany Whitman of Whitman’s Firewood and Trucking throws firewood on the back of a truck at their location on Houseman Road Wednesday in Northville.

According to the DEC Web site, exotic insects like Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and hemlock wooly adelgid have killed millions of trees in cities and woodlots in the past 10 to 15 years from Long Island to upper Michigan.

Other invasive diseases such as oak wilt, sudden oak death, Sirex wood wasp and brown spruce longhorned beetle are present or of concern.

In Speculator, Mayor Neil McGovern said he has noticed more wood sellers on the road to Saratoga Springs when he travels there.

"More people are going into firewood sales and some who had given it up are getting back into selling it again," he said.

Jan Rougeau, of Avery Road in Caroga, said she thought the limited radius of wood delivery would likely help local wood suppliers.

"I had my 100-acre wood logged two years ago and started selling wood with my partner Gene Baker," Rougeau said. "We sell bundles of wood to campers in the summer and cords of wood for winter home heating."

Rougeau's son Ray and Baker's son Dave also work in the business.

"We thought about advertising in the newspaper this year, but we can't keep up with the demand from customers we already have along with word-of-mouth."

Her son, Ray, said a local operation at the Teetz Farm on Extension West State Street was no longer supplying wood since Bob Teetz died this past year. He said they had been selling 500 cords of wood per year to regular customers, and that vacuum was likely to have a ripple effect on local supplies of wood.

A family spokeswoman at the Teetz Farm said Bob Teetz had supplied as much as 1,000 cords per year "when we were younger, years ago."

The Rougeaus sell wood for campfires in summer and for home heating in winter.

"We sell more wood in the winter than the summer," Jan Rougeau said. "Our bundles of wood are sold on the self-serve honor system. So far we've only had one person take advantage of that."

Ray Rougeau said the prices of wood have gone up with the rise in other fuel prices, but he said they were holding the line at $185 per full cord, with a cord being a 4-by-4-by-8-foot stack.

"The amount of wood in face cords depends on the length of the firewood," Jan Rougeau said.

Typical lengths of firewood are 12, 14, 18 and 24-inch lengths.

While the Rougeaus said their price remains at last year's level, they said many have gone to $200 per cord.

Robbie Shutts Fabrication in Caroga said he heats his shop area and office with wood.

"I go through four to five face cords of wood in the office per year and 14 or more face cords of wood in the garage," he said Monday. "It gets expensive, but I couldn't afford to heat the place with oil or gas."

When he is painting his fabricated, ornamental iron, he heats the area on rainy days in summer as well as winter so the paint will dry properly.

"I had it up to about 100 degrees in there the other day," Shutts said. "Even the next morning with the fire out over night it was still 80 degrees in the shop."

Rougeaus said they sold 200 full cords of wood last year and expect to sell more this year.

"We've got more customers coming in and more wood going out," Jan Rougeau said.

At the Red Store across Route 29A from the Caroga State Campsite, sales of bundles of campfire wood have been brisk with the increase in camping this summer.

High gas prices have meant vacationers stayed closer to home, with Fourth of July campsites at a 90 percent occupancy level this year, according to the DEC.

State Forest Ranger John Ploss of Stratford said he has seen an increase in campers this summer on his rounds.

"At one trailhead, there were twice as many cars this July 4 weekend compared with last year," he said.

Mary DiPasquale of the Red Store said they get their wood delivered at a reduced price since they resell it and stack the bundles themselves.

At Joe Moore Logging and Firewood sales, Tracey Moore said the family had been in the logging business for generations.

"We've done log-length delivery for people who split their own firewood in the past," she said. "Because of the rising prices and demand, we've gotten into cutting and splitting wood now."

Listed prices for full cords of split wood were $190 if picked up and $220 for local delivery.

"We buy trees from landowners, log off the property and bring it to sawmills," Moore said.

Joe Moore was logging a farm property in Glen Wednesday. He has purchased a new wood processor due to the increased demand for wood.

A log goes in at one end and comes out cut to length and split at the other end. He said he could easily process five full cords per day with the processor.

"It's already paid for itself," Moore said.

His partner, Brett Anderson, said there was significant savings in heating a home with wood.

"I think it costs about one-third as much to heat with wood as fuel oil or gas," Anderson said. "I called Shepard Oil last week and got a quote of $4.59 per gallon for fuel oil."

In Northampton, John Whitman of Whitman's Firewood said he had been selling campfire wood for the past 10 years.

"I know firewood is hard to get this year," Whitman said. "I sell mainly to campers at $7 per bundle."

Whitman said there were more people selling campfire wood this year due to the economy.

Some firewood suppliers contacted didn't want to be quoted or listed because they already are behind.

"I can't keep up with my old customers," one supplier said. "I can't take on any new ones."

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter. He can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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