Dropping in for Dry Wood

Dropping in for Dry Wood

This is an excerpt of a story from ACEP's blog, From The Grid.

By Amanda Byrd

At 9 a.m. on a crisp Monday morning in mid-November, I am one of about 10 people standing outside an office on First Avenue in Fairbanks. We are here for the “wood drop” program organized by Aurora Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Aurora Energy — the company that owns the 27.5-megawatt coal-fired power plant, right across the road, that supplies electricity to the greater Fairbanks area and heat in the form of steam to the downtown area.

I walk inside and sign the roster of wood buyers. I am fifth on the list. I make small talk with the others standing around, trying to glean information not only about why they are here but also how this works. One man tells me that I am after the white pickup with the trailer. I think that is very kind and I politely stand around waiting for my next instructions. I notice another vehicle pull behind the trailer. I quietly amble to my vehicle and quickly drive it out of the office parking lot and behind the next vehicle. I notice a line of cars already snaking around the corner onto Second Avenue behind the building. More vehicles are arriving and stopping in line. The instructions for this event are not going to just present themselves. I feel like we are in the Wild West.

By 10 a.m., around 30 vehicles ranging from full size pickup trucks to Subaru Foresters line up around the corner to get into the gated wood-loading area, their drivers ready to hand-load wood into the truck beds. Some vehicles have passengers ready to help load wood, too. Right at 10 a.m., the gates open, and as many vehicles as can safety fit in do so.

When I enter, six trucks are backed up to a huge, covered metal platform that’s about 150 feet long. The split, dry wood is dropped onto this platform, hence the name “wood drop,” and it offers a perfect way for people to load their vehicles without breaking their backs.

One truck leaves, opening the space for my out-of-place Subaru — it is Fairbanks, though, so is a Subaru actually ever out of place? I back in almost to the platform, knowing I need to open my hatch and load from the ground.

It is not, as you might imagine, a free-for-all wood-chucking event. Well, it kind of is. But, as I haphazardly load my Subaru, I begin to observe there may be an art to this. My neighbor, Matt, is picking through the wood rather than just throwing randomly like I am. He says he is picking the right-sized pieces so he doesn’t have to split the wood further when he gets home. I start to take note and think about the size of my own wood-burning device. I get a little pickier.

Most trucks have a beautifully orderly load of wood, arranged so it is flat across the bed and running just to below of the truck bed sides. This is where the second person comes in handy. My mountain of wood is uneven and also sitting on top of my skis, but I won’t find that out until later when I am running late to my ski class. The wood is, I find out, measured after loading and charged per volume. There’s good monetary reasons to pack it in neat and tight.

Read the full story here.


A man picks dry wood and loads it into his truck. Photo by Amanda Byrd.