AKELEY, Minn. - Firewood is in high demand in rural Minnesota, where people who remember last year's long, cold winter are stocking up on anything they can find to keep their homes warm.
Dean and Duane White, loggers who work in the woods north of Akeley, are focused on providing individual customers with wood for their homes rather than supplying local lumber mills. The brothers have been busy trying to fulfill orders, which have doubled this year, before the cold hits, they told Minnesota Public Radio.
"Usually we cut 500 cords. We've done that already this year," Duane White said. "We have 500 more waiting to be cut that we've already sold."
The volatility of propane prices in the past has prodded some users toward firewood, according to White. Minnesota residents living in rural parts of the state don't have many options for heating. Natural gas isn't available past city limits and electric heating is often too expensive.
It's estimated that last winter's propane shortages cost Minnesota residents an additional $71 million in fuel costs, according to a recent congressional report. The shortages also encouraged many people to switch over to heating their homes with firewood, according to Steve Vongroven of the state Department of Natural Resources.
Firewood suppliers in the Twin Cities reported last month that they were unable to keep up with an overwhelming amount of orders.
Although residents of northern Minnesota are closer to the source of firewood, thus making it more accessible, White said he's still had to increase prices. The cost of the wood he supplies has risen by $5 a cord, and is now $80 for lower-grade firewood and $85 for oak.
"Most of the time people want seasoned hardwood," he said. "This year they're taking birch, pine, whatever I'm cutting."
A cord of wood typically measures 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. On average, White's customers order seven to 10 cords throughout the winter, he said.