By Mark Heinz, public lands and wildlife reporter
Higher prices at the gas pump will lead to higher prices at the wood stove, some firewood sellers said.
“Yeah, I did actually have to put (firewood) prices up, because of the cost of gas and everything else,” Guy Johnson of Cheyenne told Cowboy State Daily. “It went up from about $130 per pickup load to about $140, then $150. And that’s about seven tenths of a cord.”
Johnson’s main gig is an arborist through Pilch’s Tree Service, but he also sells small amounts of firewood from the trees he trims or cuts down.
Jim Brost of Cody processes and sells about 75-100 cords of firewood per season, doing business as 307 Firewood. He told Cowboy State Daily that he’s had to hike prices by “about 15 to 20 percent” to make up for the higher costs of fuel for his truck, chainsaws and powered log splitter.
His current prices are about $250 per cord for customers who come to him to pick up their own firewood, and $275-$300 per cord for those who want it delivered.
A cord is a time-honored way of measuring firewood, and is generally recognized as a neat stack of split wood measuring eight feet long by four feet high and four feet wide.
Brost prefers to go out and cut his own timber, rather than buying unprocessed logs in bulk from logging companies.
“I like being in the mountains,” he said. “It’s peaceful up there.”
Fuel prices for chainsaws in particular have raised his production costs, he said.
Manufactures recommend using only high-grade, ethanol-free gasoline – which is more expensive than other gasoline grades – in small, two-cycle engines such as those for most chainsaws. Brost follows that recommendation.
“That ethanol (in lower-grade gasoline) isn’t good for small engines. It leads to damaging carbon build-up.”
Local sellers such as Johnson and Brost aren’t the only ones having to pass along higher fuel costs.
“Anything with transportation right now is going to be affected,” said Dust Sumpter, co-owner of the Colorado Tree and Firewood Company in Fort Collins, Colo., which distributes firewood and smoking wood for cooking to customers in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.
Though not giving exact numbers, she said her company’s prices vary by product, and in some cased had to be hiked because of fuel expenses. She said her company cuts some of its own wood, but also buys some harder-to-get products, such as oak, from other dealers.
“Oak makes for great firewood. It’s a ‘hot wood’ that burns more slowly and at a higher temperature than pine,” she said.
“We have to increase (prices) a little bit,” Sumpter said. “If we buy oak, and we find a source that’s closer with lower transportation costs, then it’s ultimately going to be cheaper for the consumer.”
Even at the full commercial level, gas prices have affected things “extremely,” said Kelly Turley, a part-owner of the Salt Lake City, Utah-based Standard Firewood company. The company distributes bulk deliveries of pre-wrapped firewood bundles across the West, including to numerous locations in Wyoming.
“With fuel prices being what they are, it literally affects every step of the wood being taken care of,” he said.
Standard Firewood gets timber both by cutting its own and buying it from logging companies, Turley told Cowboy State Daily. Along with filling its delivery trucks’ tanks, the company must also fuel its large firewood processing machines, which can rapidly churn out split firewood in bulk.
“Nobody’s thrilled about it (higher cost),” he said. “But it’s part of the scene right now, and our customers know it’s not our fault as a business.”
Stores that distribute the company’s pre-wrapped firewood bundles add the “final markup,” he said.
This week, Standard Firewood’s bundles outside of the Ridley’s Family Market in Laramie were going for $4.59 apiece for customers with Ridley’s rewards cards.