Firewood shortage in Queens could make for a cold winter

Brittany W. Verge
Published on August 25, 2014

Eugene Ingram, his son Kenny Ingram, his grandson Kris Ingram, and Corey Johnson stand by a load of wood meant for White Point Beach Resort. Eugene Ingram is just one firewood supplier dealing with the firewood shortage.

©Brittany W. Verge

A firewood shortage could mean a cold winter for many families in Queens County this year.

Michael Nowe sells firewood.  He says that he’s had to turn away dozens of would be customers because he has been unable to access crown land for cutting. 

“Last night I had nine calls on my phone, every one of them I had to refuse,” says Nowe.  “It’s been like that… every day it’s a message on my machine for firewood and I have to refuse them.”

Nowe has heard from many other firewood sellers who have had difficulty getting the amount of wood they need and that is resulting in a struggle for the consumers too.

Only about 60 to 70 per cent of Nowe’s regular orders have been able to be filled. 

 Nowe says part of his supply of wood usually came from sawmills who sold some of their wood to contractors.  This year that isn’t happening. He says the department of natural resources told him that the mills have “prior commitments” with the hardwood. 

 “The mills are the only ones cutting on the land and they’re not supplying us with any wood,” he says.

Burning “green” wood  - wood that has not been left to dry long enough - is a worry that weighs heavy on Nowe’s mind as well.

“If people burn green wood, they’re going to need to clean their flue every three or four weeks because if they don’t it’s going to creosote up and you know what’s going to happen there,” says Nowe.

A build up of creosote is a common cause for chimney fires. Nowe says many of his customers rely on wood heat as a main or secondary source of heat.

Nowe says he’s phoned several politicians, including Mark Furey, MLA for Lunenburg West at least four times, looking for answers and help. So far he has only gotten a response from Queens-Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau. 

Belliveau spoke out in the Aug. 19 edition of the Advance on the subject. Belliveau requested an emergency meeting in May to discuss the issue of access to firewood but was rebuffed.

“If something isn’t done, it’s going to be the same way next year only worse,” says Nowe.

He’d like to see the crown land, particularly the former Bowater lands managed better.  Much of his wood has been gotten from the Bowater lands in the past.

“I don’t know why they bought that land if they don’t know what to do with it,” says Nowe.

Eugene Ingram, another firewood supplier has also been experiencing problems getting enough wood for his customers.  Eugene has a construction business but he also supplies a lot of firewood to smaller sellers and straight to consumers. 

He too is struggling to find enough firewood, and he blames not being able to get access to former Bowater lands.

Eugene, his son Kenny, and his grandson Kris all work together. Eugene has been selling firewood since he was very young; he’s in his 70s now.  He started cutting and selling it when it was still done with horses and wagons.

“We don’t even have firewood for ourselves yet,” says Kris.

Eugene is worried that if he doesn’t sell enough firewood he won’t be able to keep his eight employees. He is cutting on his own land for the most part, but he’s running out.  He also cuts wood on private property by request, but he’s seeing less of that.

“Years ago I used to buy quite a bit from Bowater but now where they turned the land over to the crown, it’s the worst mistake they ever done as far as I’m concerned,” says Eugene.

Eugene would like to see a standard price per cord and be able to go to the crown land, pay upfront and cut firewood.

“When they put the land up for tender, we can’t tender against (large sawmills),” says Eugene. “If we don’t get wood, all these young fellows I got working here are going to go out west.”

Kenny says people are getting desperate to get their firewood and dry it before winter.  Some have offered to pay in advance to secure their firewood but Kenny says they have to go through their list of customers.

Calls to the department of natural resources have not yet been returned. 

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