During a disaster when the grid goes down, particularly one that hits in the middle of winter, many people plan to rely upon fireplaces, woodstoves or outdoor fire pits for warmth as well as cooking. These all require fuel in the form of firewood, and not a small amount of it either.

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It is one thing to have a nice fire for ambience, but it’s quite another if you are burning all day and night in order to keep from freezing to death. You could easily go through an entire cord of wood in a week in those circumstances.

Purchasing firewood is certainly an option, but this can be expensive. Fortunately, there are a few options that are more cost-effective.

1. Pay attention in your neighborhood and watch for tree removal services in the area, especially after a major storm has passed through. Ask the homeowner if they plan to keep the wood from the trees being taken down. Typically, these services charge a fee for removing the wood, so if you are in a position where you can do it for them, the homeowner will save money.

While this wood will need to be seasoned for at least a year after you’ve split it, you also will not have to pay for it, other than through sweat equity.

2. If you live in or near a city or town, get in touch with your local public works department. Ask about retrieving the large branches and tree trunks from trees they have taken down.

Sometimes there is a nominal fee involved, but it will be far less than what you’d pay to have a cord of wood delivered.

3. Visit construction sites in your area and talk to the contractor about their cut-offs. Typically, these will be pieces of 2×4 lumber, anywhere from a few inches to a foot or more in length.

The wood will likely be pine, which isn’t great for your chimney due to creosote buildup from burning soft woods. However, you can’t beat the price. Just be sure to clean your chimney regularly.

4. Check with cabinet makers and related businesses in your area and contact them about scrap lumber as well. These are going to be smaller pieces, but they’ll burn just as well as the larger stuff. A word of caution: Avoid burning any painted or stained scrap wood. These chemicals can give off toxic fumes when burned.

5. Ads offering free firewood are often posted on Craigslist and newspaper classified ads. Typically, these will be trees that came down as the result of storms. While there are many scams permeating these resources, I’ve not heard of any yet that have involved an offer of firewood.

This article is from the spring 2015 issue of Survivor’s Edge Magazine. Subscription are available at

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