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In the woods, firewood has never been a problem. It is everywhere, abundant. I am not referring to the camps where you drive in and you pay to park in your numbered spot. In those places, it would be somewhat normal to find no firewood because all the other campers have foraged around for whatever is available. I am referring to the actual wilderness where you have to walk in at least a mile or more. Wilderness.
However, in the event of a natural (or man-made) disaster, firewood may not be so abundant in the urban areas. I recall hearing stories of German people burning furniture during WWII because there was no other practical way to get heat.
In today’s urban setting, there are many resources that are common, even abundant. One such resource that could be pressed into service is newspaper.
Newspaper, obviously, can be used for many things, such as wrapping, making pots for your garden, emergency insulation, and also for making logs for the fireplace.
When I say “logs,” I’m not referring to the old 1970s method of rolling some newspaper around a broom handle, tying it up, pulling out the handle, and then burning the “log” like a wooden log. Trouble is, these don’t really burn all that well unless you already have a blazing fire going.
But there is an alternative. Put all your newspapers into a plastic bucket and add water. Soaking it for a few days is best. On occasion, when I have demonstrated this to children at camp, we simply shredded the newspaper, added water, and went to the next step, but soaking for a few days is ideal.
Next, you need to have a newspaper press, as pictured. I first purchased one around 1980, and though this model doesn’t seem to be available anymore, there are similar ones today manufactured by someone else that seems to work just as well.
You put the wet newspaper into the rectangular box section of the press, add the top, and then push the handles down to press out the water. You then pop out the “brick” and let it dry for a few days (or longer). It then burns well in a fireplace or campfire. Granted, this is newspaper, so don’t expect the same BTU of oak or other hard wood. But it does burn, and definitely better than the logs rolled around a broomstick. I’ve used them in backyard campfires and in woodstoves.
This device also presents the possibility for dealing with security documents. If you just toss your paper documents into the city trash can or the city recycling bin, you never really know what might happen. I used to just burn such documents on a grill in the back yard, but this is not always a possibility. The last time I had a full bag of documents to deal with – old bills, etc. – I shredded them and put them into a bucket with water. Since they are mostly bond paper, not newsprint, I allowed a week of soaking. After the week, I made some logs and dried them. Since you can no longer read anything on the bills and documents after this, there is no need to burn them right away. And since bills are typically bond paper, the logs seem to burn just a bit hotter and longer.