The Jackson County Fuel Committee's wood lot has been chock-full since nine dump-truck loads of heavy slash left over from thinning work in the Ashland Creek watershed were hauled there Monday.
Donated by the city of Ashland, the soon-to-be firewood is a by-product of fuels reduction work on 74 acres of city-owned property in the watershed. It will be distributed by the fuel committee to low-income residents who use wood-burning stoves to heat their homes.
"This is a largest single donation we've had since I've been here," said Bill Jennett, committee operations manager for the last two years.
"It's a good example of what the government can do and needs to be doing, which is actively seeking out people in the community who are fulfilling needs and providing support."
Jennett estimates that the nine dump-truck loads of wood equate to about 20 cords of firewood. A cord is a tightly packed stack of wood measuring 4 feet high, 4 feet deep and 8 feet long.
The fuel committee delivers 20 to 30 cords a week to in-need residents during winter, Jennett said, serving about 400 homes annually.
"Things like this, what the city is doing, help advance us toward our goal. We're fighting so everybody can have light and heat," he said.
"There is a tremendous need out there."
Had the wood not gone to the fuel committee, it likely would have been decked in the forest to be burned or left to decay, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Forestry Division Chief Chris Chambers.
About 11 log-truck loads of non-merchantable logs left over from the city's thinning effort were sold commercially as firewood, Chambers said, because they were long enough to fit in the back of a log truck.
Another large pile of heavy slash, like that donated to the fuel committee, was chipped into two truckloads and hauled away for biomass.
The wood donated to the fuel committee was located too far up twisty roads to access by chip truck, and too short to haul on a log truck, Chambers said.
Chambers said the city spent about $2,000 transporting the donated wood from the Horn Gap Trail area down to the fuel committee's wood lot at the corner of South Valley View and Eagle Mill roads.
"If we could have done more biomass we would have, but the best use of product here is firewood," Chambers said. "It's a pretty good opportunity to help satisfy the community's firewood needs."
Though the about 20 cords donated Monday will come nowhere close to supplying the fuel committee's needs this year, it will help keep volunteers busy splitting and delivering wood for the next few months, Jennett said.
"We have a full lot of wood right now," Jennett said. "Now we need volunteers for splitting, stacking and delivering ... our biggest need is volunteers."
There is likely more than 50 cords of wood currently heaped on the fuel committee's wood lot, Jennett said, and he encourages those who will need firewood this winter to call the committee now and schedule a delivery.
"We want people to put in their request now so they can pick it up now," he said. "We don't want split wood on the lot, we want to get it out and get more in."
Optimally, Jennett said, the fuel committee would like to stockpile about 25 cords, and get that much more delivered before cold weather begins to move back into the area. "That way we're not caught in a crisis," he said.
Many of the low-income residents the fuel committee serves live in rural areas, are elderly, disabled or terminally ill, and can't get their own firewood, Jennett said.
To volunteer for the committee, call 541-488-2905.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Talent. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.