Record drought could yield firewood glut


by Brad Woodard / KHOU 11 News

Posted on December 1, 2011 at 8:19 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 1 at 8:21 PM

HOUSTON—At Embark Tree and Landscape Services, they’re embarking on a new side business because of the Texas drought.

“This is the opportunity we have when we’re taking a lot of hardwood trees down, and we’re going ahead and seizing the opportunity and expanding that service to our customers,” said Matt Hancock, the company’s vice president.

With his landscaping business off because of the drought, necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, and the firewood business is booming.

“We’re talking about millions of trees, a tree on nearly every residential property you see, and certainly commercial properties, and on any unmaintained property, there are 100 percent complete stands that have died around Houston,” Hancock said.

Here’s the kicker:  His clients actually pay his company to take them.  At least, for the moment, the supply seems endless.  Hancock said each day they add three large hardwood trees to their inventory, and that’s a lot of firewood.

The city of Houston is spending millions of dollars to remove trees killed by the drought, which will be recycled into lumber or mulch.

“This is devastating,” said Joe Turner, Director of Houston Parks and Recreation.  “This is not what we do as a department.  Our goal in life is to plant trees.”

But life doesn’t always go as planned, and Hancock is making the best of it.

“If you’ve got a wood-burning fireplace, that could be an opportunity to save some heating money this winter,” he said.

Call it the silver lining of a very dark, rainless cloud.