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What is the Community Firewood Program?

March 9, 2018

 

 

 

Project Mission

The primary goal of the Community Firewood Program is to help mitigate air pollution from improper firewood burning in order to help the City of Oakridge meet its air attainment goals.

Additional objectives of the program include:

• provide affordable, seasoned firewood,

• educate community about clean burning practices,

• share information about alternative home heating options and programs

• support the reinstatement of a forest service commercial firewood sale program

 

Background

During the winter months, Oakridge air quality is often susceptible to high concentrations of smoke from wood stoves settling on the valley floor. Local climate and topography make the city of Oakridge prone to wintertime temperature inversions, low wind speeds and poor atmospheric dispersion. As a result, Oakridge has struggled to meet air quality standards for fine particulate matter designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 

These particles can accumulate in the respiratory system and are associated with numerous health effects. Fine particles are most closely associated with such health effects as increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits for heart and lung disease, increased respiratory symptoms and disease, decreased lung function and premature death. Sensitive groups that are at greatest risk include the elderly, individuals with cardiopulmonary disease such as asthma, and children.

 

A key issue is that people do not have the opportunity to practice clean burning by burning dry, seasoned wood. Residents who burn firewood must gather firewood from the surrounding federal forest themselves or purchase firewood that is often expensive or improperly seasoned. When wet firewood is burned the fine particulate emissions cannot be properly abated,

regardless of using a certified wood stove. The community firewood program would directly address this issue.

 

As a result of this information a group of partners in Oakridge, OR are interested in developing a commercial firewood business. Partners in the effort include: City of Oakridge, Inbound LLC, Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative (SWFC), Lane County and Oregon Department of Forestry. This program is one measure to help Oakridge reach its air attainment goals for fine particulate matter.

 

History

In 2015, the City of Oakridge, SWFC, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, Inbound LLC and other partners launched a pilot Community Firewood Program to provide seasoned firewood at affordable rates to the community. The program converts logging slash to firewood, employing off-season Inbound firefighters to process the firewood.

 

The program has been highly successful providing firewood to those in need and sharing information about home heating advisories, clean burning practices, weatherization and home heating programs. The long-term sustainability of this program relies on a successful transition to a commercial firewood business that serves a broader market. Commercial Firewood Public-Private Partnership: Inbound LLC is interested launching a commercial firewood startup during the wildfire off-season. Lane County has offered a cashmatch grant to purchase equipment, and the City of Oakridge will provide a location to process and store firewood. In exchange for public support, the private commercial business will supply affordable, seasoned firewood to qualified Oakridge sole source or low income homes for at least five years. A startup program could employ 5-7 firefighters during the winter months to convert logging slash to firewood. To be sustainable, the program would need an annual supply of 180,000 board feet of timber byproducts to produce approximately 400 cords of firewood.

 

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