‘We want to make sure everyone stays warm for the winter’

Firewood Rescue provides wood for those in need

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

Winter in North Idaho is a beautiful time of year, but for those in need, staying warm can be difficult. That’s where the nonprofit Firewood Rescue comes in. Started in 2018 by Paul Krames, the organization aims to provide those who have an emergency need for wood to get them through hard times.

Volunteers help split wood for Firewood Rescue to provide to those in need. Courtesy photo.

“It’s a challenge sometimes staying warm in the winter here,” said board member and administrator Eileen Esplin. “We have been blessed with being able to provide for ourselves, but not everybody is. We want to make sure everybody stays warm for the winter.”

In its fourth year of operation, Esplin said Firewood Rescue serves about 60 households each year, with the hope to provide for more every year.

Firewood assistance is open to anyone who believes they may qualify. Esplin said those who think they qualify should email [email protected] and provide a little information to see if they can receive a load of wood to help get them through.

“We ask that they tell us a little about the wood recipient or themselves,” Esplin said. “We need a working phone number, an address and what their issues are — are they a senior citizen, handicapped, low income and needing help? We just had a customer call who was over 90 and broke her hip and needed some help. That’s what we’re here for.”

Firewood Rescue doesn’t provide people with full cords of wood to get through the winter, but rather smaller loads to help in an emergent need, for example if a family runs out of wood late in the winter and has no resources to procure or purchase the wood themselves.

“For those looking for wood to help get them through the entire season, we encourage them to apply for energy assistance at the Community Action Partnership,” Esplin said.

Community Action Partnership has a program in which they cover firewood, propane or electric heating bills. Applications will be accepted starting Tuesday, Nov. 1. Call 208-255-2910 for more information.

“It’s a great program because they provide you with money to purchase firewood or propane to get you through the winter,” Esplin said. 

Firewood Rescue sources most of its wood through donations from the community.

“We get a lot of calls to pick up people’s trees and sometimes people have firewood already cut up that they want to donate,” she said. “We don’t go out and clear land or take down trees or clear property of firewood. Many of our volunteers are senior citizens, so we have to make sure they’re safe and careful. We also have a couple of tree services that have brought us wood that we process, including Oliver Tree Service and Sand Creek Tree Service. Also Hickey Farms has donated a lot of firewood to us over the last two years.”

Firewood Rescue serves Bonner and Boundary counties, reaching as far north as Moyie Springs, east to the Montana border, south as far as Athol and west all the way to Oldtown.

“We prioritize those that need firewood and give the highest consideration to low-income disabled individuals, the elderly or low-income folks who are seriously ill,” Esplin said. “We serve anybody who is in need, though, and I always try to return phone calls and emails within 24 hours.”

Esplin said there is no harm in asking about qualifying conditions — more often than not, people will qualify.

“Unless you’re of medium income or have money and are able-bodied, we usually are able to provide you with some firewood on a one-time basis for emergency purposes,” she said. “If you’re completely out of firewood or just about ready to be, we want to make sure you have enough to stay warm through the winter.”

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