September 13, 2005 in Idaho

Old saw of supply and demand has firewood prices rising, too

By The Spokesman-Review
 

For those wanting to cut their own firewood, the U.S. Forest Service sells firewood permits for $5 per cord. The permits are available at district ranger offices.

Suddenly, firewood doesn’t seem so old-fashioned.

Woodcutters say they are having trouble this year keeping up with demand. Some have raised prices, but the increases appear to be at much lower rates than those affecting other heating fuels.

Blacksmith Farms, of Athol, Idaho, raised prices by 6 percent this season, largely to keep up with surging fuel costs faced by loggers, said Stefanie Smith, who runs the business with her husband. The higher prices did little to dampen demand.

“There’s a ton of people calling. We finally quit advertising,” Smith said. “We can’t take care of it all.”

Blacksmith Farms expects to cut, split and deliver about 1,800 cords of firewood this season – one cord is 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. In the Coeur d’Alene area, a cord of split firewood costs between $120 and $160, with hotter-burning species such as larch and red fir commanding the highest prices.

A typical homeowner might burn a cord of wood each month – that is, if they can find a supplier. Smith said the earliest deliveries are now being scheduled near Christmas.

“Right now we’re starting to get people who are sounding panicked,” she said.

Some of Blacksmith Farms’ new customers are recent transplants, who consider a fireplace or woodstove a required element of North Idaho’s rustic chic. The business has also picked up many new customers who have converted their gas fireplaces to wood.

Although Blacksmith Farms is a full-time firewood operation, many others sell small quantities. April Evans, of Cocolalla, Idaho, salvaged 15 cords of firewood from logging slash piles. Only five cords are left.

“We’ve gotten a ton of calls,” Evans said, adding that she tried to keep the price low. “We know there’s people out there hurting now.”

The showroom of Spokane Fireplace and Patio was full Monday afternoon with people shopping for wood stoves. Leah Hauer, one of the owners of the business, said she has noticed a jump this year in people wanting to buy stoves that burn logs or wood pellets. Monday was especially busy, she said, with the cool weather serving as a loud alarm for many residents.

“It’s kind of like snow tires with the first snow or air conditioners on the first heat wave,” Hauer said.

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