PENTICTON - Having just experienced the hottest and driest summer ever in the Okanagan, the last thing most of us are thinking about these days is preparing for the upcoming winter.
But if you burn firewood for heat in the winter, now might be the best time to be thinking about ensuring you have adequate supplies this year. That long, hot, dry summer created an extreme fire hazard and kept workers out of the bush which in turn is having a big impact on local supply.
Dean Erickson, the owner of P&E Lumber in Penticton, sees a potential shortage on the horizon.
“People haven’t been allowed in the bush all season, and individuals still can’t use a chain saw. It’s really slowed down firewood acquisition,” he says.
Erickson began selling pallet loads of firewood a few years ago to bolster winter sales from his lumber yard.
“Loggers have been telling me there is no supply and they won’t be allowed back in the bush until we get at least three straight days of rain. How much time is that going to leave in the remainder of the season to get loads out?” he asks.
Erickson says a shortage will impact those in rural areas that have limited sources of energy, beyond electricity, to heat their homes.
Kaleden area resident John Cerne says he’s been looking to purchase a truckload of firewood, but after several phone calls resigned himself to getting on a wait list. But he did end up finding a supplier for a smaller quantity.
Cerne says a $50 cord of firewood ten years ago is selling for about $250 this year.
“I was told when I enquired about the three cords I bought, to secure them quickly. They gave me 24 hours to respond,” he says.
Clayton Hillman of TNL Timber in Cawston says he’s sure there will be pressure in the firewood market this year. He deals mainly with dry wood used in construction of log buildings, and is finding that market strained due to lack of activity in the bush.
“Firewood is a side sale for us, a waste byproduct we offer to the community. I definitely see it as an issue in the coming months,” he says.
Hillman says people who want truckloads of firewood logs this winter are going on a waiting list, but that waiting list is going to grow because the supply isn't there.
“It’s like winter tires, you should be on the ball sooner rather than later, but nobody ever is," he says. "If I were somebody who wanted firewood I would have called a month ago to get on the list,” he says.
Forestry workers are back in the bush and they'll begin hauling logs soon, but it may be a case of too little, too late.
Justine Hunse with B.C. Wildfire says residents can determine whether or not their planned activity in the bush is considered high risk and what schedule to follow by consulting the provincial forestry webpage here.
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