Gloves, hats, and scarves have finally emerged after a mild start to our winter. Keeping a home warm is no easy feat, and furnaces and fireplaces are being used with more regularity now that colder temperatures are upon us. With the use of firewood increasing each winter, users are again encouraged to keep firewood local or use treated firewood. By doing so, one reduces the risk of transporting invasive insects and diseases that hitchhike within firewood to new areas. For the history buffs out there: If firewood is a Trojan horse, then invasive insects and disease are the Greek army!
Despite that potential, the importance of firewood and its role as a source of heat cannot be overlooked. There are many families in North Carolina whose only source of heat is burning firewood. According to the 2010 census, that number is 2.4 million homes nationwide, a number which grew by 34 percent since the 2000 census. On top of that, an additional 10 million users supplement their primary heat source with burning wood.
For some of these families, it is challenging to obtain the appropriate amount of firewood to warm their homes all season long. That is where programs like Warmth for Wake make all the difference. “It’s so easy and we help over 100 families each winter,” says Denise Kissel, resource development specialist with Wake County Human Services. As part of the Warmth for Wake program, wood is delivered to low-income families, most of them seniors, from October through March each year. Kissel says the program is now in its 39th season and delivers almost 300 cords of wood each season.
This also keeps firewood local, reducing the risk of spreading invasive species to new areas. “We get wood from a variety of sources, but it is all local,” Kissel states. Firewood for the program is obtained through park cleanups by the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation, lot clearing by developers, local tree companies with timber that is not of high enough quality to sell, and homeowners doing tree maintenance on their property. “In most cases, this is wood that would wind up in a chipper or landfill, but is being used to help people stay warm.”
This outreach program runs entirely on donations and volunteers, and non-pine firewood and delivery assistance are welcome. “We have about 200 volunteers each season who help make this possible. It is their labor that makes it work, really,” Kissel says. If you have extra firewood this year or have woody debris suitable for use as firewood from your annual tree maintenance, consider giving to Warmth for Wake or another wood bank in your area and helping your neighbors in need. The trees will thank you, too!