With nighttime temperatures dropping into the 30s and 40s, firewood is a hot commodity now in Sonoma County.
"I'm selling more wood than ever before," said Glenn Kantock, owner of All Seasons Firewood on Airport Boulevard. "I'm out there throwing wood (onto trucks) at quarter to six" in the morning.
All Seasons took orders for more than 40 cords of firewood this week, up from 30 to 35 cords a week during November, he said.
Firewood sales at Evans Wood Products in Forestville ran more than $4,300 higher in November than the same month last year, co-owner Mary Jo Evans said, attributing the surge to chilly weather.
Her customers come in saying "I'll bet you're busy — it's so cold," she said.
Some also say they would rather burn firewood than run up their PG&E bill, Evans said.
Daily low temperatures in Santa Rosa averaged 39.7 degrees in November, just under the 41-degree average for Novembers dating back to 1931.
Michael Vlastnik, owner of Sonoma County Firewood on Olivet Road in Santa Rosa, said firewood is becoming "a little more popular" as a source of heat — not just in winter.
Vlastnik, who burns wood at his home, said he was still lighting fires in May, later than he ever had. Most years wood burning stops in March or April, he said.
Kantock and Vlastnik said there is a shortage of firewood on the wholesale market, due in part to the diversion of San Joaquin County wood into biomass energy production.
Vlastnik, a firewood dealer for 32 years, said that many of his suppliers are out of wood. He doesn't make firewood deliveries to Marin County, but said he is getting calls from Marin residents who are "scrambling to find it wherever they can."
Wholesale prices are up, Kantock said, due to the short supply and increased fuel costs for the wholesalers. His margin as a retailer has been pinched, he said, because he is leery of pricing a cord of firewood at $400 or more. A cord is 128 cubic feet of wood, equal to a well-stacked pile 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long.
All Seasons is charging $390, including tax, for a delivered cord of wood. Evans charges $360 plus $40 for delivery in west county.
Sonoma County Firewood delivers a cord in the "high $300s," Vlastnik said.
He sells wood throughout the county, heavily along the Russian River and in Fountaingrove and downtown Santa Rosa, as well.
Kantock said about 40 percent of his customers depend on wood alone to heat their homes.
He cautioned against shopping for firewood bargains, saying that cheap wood may not amount to a full cord and may also include softer woods, such as fir, pine and cypress, that produce less heat.
Vlastnik recommended buying cords of dense wood, such as live oak, white oak and almond, and avoiding mixed cords.
More than half of Evans' sales are pressed logs and pellets manufactured in Oregon and Idaho.
Pressed logs, made entirely of sawdust from lumber mills, burn cleaner than wood, leaving less ash in wood stoves and less creosote inside pipes, she said.
Evans also sells an "overnight" pressed log that she said burns with a flame for 90 minutes and then radiates heat like charcoal for hours longer.
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