Roaring fires lead to empty wood piles in Manitoba

WINNIPEG — Roaring fires have led to empty wood piles, leaving many firewood dealers in Manitoba scrambling for stock and wood burners with empty hearths.

Reasons for the shortage are varied according to vendors, but the end result is the same; If you are looking for wood, you may not find it.

“Our traffic here on the yard and our call base is easily 40 per cent higher. We can’t quite keep up to that growth rate,” said Ernie Reimer, owner of Tyndall Firewood Supply.

Reimer said right now, there is a shortage in selection of premium and dried firewood, like birch and jack pine, and with people burning a whole lot more, the industry is struggling to meet demand. With wood taking up to two years to dry, quick changes in demand are not easily met.

“Yes, we can buy more wood, but it’s coming in green, and it takes time to dry that and we are behind,” Reimer said. “In short, customers are burning too fast for us firewood dealers to dry the wood fast enough.”

Another firewood dealer, who didn’t want his name to be used, said most dealers who had stocks of dry wood have probably run out. He saw high demand from the fall carry through the winter months.

The dealer sells to a lot of cottage owners and attributes much of the increased demand to the pandemic. He specifically said snowbirds who couldn’t cross the border because of the travel restrictions and backyard remodels incorporating fire pits for outside visits as reasons for the demand.

Increased demand is only one part of the supply problem. Reimer said the timber industry has shifted, favouring larger operations and putting many smaller logging companies out of business. He said those larger companies can’t quite tailor to the smaller firewood dealers that are out there.

“The cost associated to logging and getting it to a firewood dealer has dramatically increased in the last year and a half,” said Reimer.

“A lot of guys cannot afford to pay the money to get those logs to their yard to be able to process that and then resell it.”

Tree species and climate are factors as well. With Manitoba experiencing above average temperatures streaks throughout the winter, access to some varieties of firewood was difficult for contractors. Many of the heating woods, like tamarack and ash, grow in low-lying areas, so a frozen ground is important.

If you are looking for firewood, Reimer’s advice is simple.

“You got to hit the buy and sell sites,” he said, adding if you can, buy it four months in advance.

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