In a land covered by vast forests it’s hard to imagine running out of firewood.

But that’s exactly what’s happening in and around Ottawa. Ken Rouson says he’s never seen anything like it in the ten year’s he’s operated Ken’s Firewood in Manotick Station. “Yeah, it’s my first year for running out of wood,” he says.

And he’s not alone. A & D Firewood of Almonte supplies much of the packaged firewood and kindling available at local gas stations and hardware stores. Andy Fortington says demand is up as much as 50-percent, and the calls for more wood are constant. “Dozens and dozens of calls from people trying to top up to get through till spring. It’s been incredible,” says Fortington.

One reason is obvious. This has been a long, cold winter and people are burning more wood than they stockpiled.

But the rising cost of other heating options is also driving more people to use wood as a supplement, if not an all-out alternative - especially in areas without natural gas. “The cost of propane and electricity has gone up in recent years. And the efficiency of wood appliances has also gone up to make them a more attractive choice,” says Sean Holtom of Top Hat Home Comfort Services.

So why don’t suppliers cut more wood? They are, but it’s not that simple. Firewood needs to be dried for a year or more. The wood being sold this year was cut last year.  New wood is harder to burn, produces less heat, and adds more potentially-dangerous creosote to the inside of stove pipes and chimneys.

Ken Rouson tells his customers his remaining wood is not fully-seasoned, but if they need it they buy it anyway. “I mean, I’m putting it in a heated shop and putting a fan to it and drying it out the best we can.”

For many suppliers, that’s all they have left to offer, that and a little advice. Andy Fortington says “Call early for next year and buy lots.”