Can't beat the smell
Woodstoves in Nunavut

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 18/99) - Ah yes, there's nothing quite like the sound of a crackling fire on a crisp winter night to take the chill out of your bones.

And the smell of wood smoke wafting across the tundra just can't be beat.

Hey, wait a second... wood smoke wafting across the tundra?

With the exception of a small, stunted willow patch outside of Kimmirut and the petrified trees found way, way up North, there aren't any trees above the treeline -- hence the name. So what's all this business about smoke and tundra?

Ask Suzanne Laliberte.

She just purchased and installed a woodstove in her Iqaluit home for the sheer ambience of it.

"It was one of the things that I was missing the most -- the heat of the wood and the smell. It's like I have company now," said Laliberte.

But where the heck does she get her wood when the closest forest is thousands of kilometres away?

"Whenever I'm driving my four-wheeler if I see a piece of wood by the side of the road, I pick up. And I've been lucky, some construction people just drop (the scrap lumber) off in my backyard," said Laliberte, who has enough wood stockpiled now to get her through the winter.

A little to the east on the shores of Hudson Bay, Jerry Chislett said his woodstove actually allowed him to reduce his home heating costs by a third last winter.

And as the owner of a construction company called Qagvik, the 20-year veteran of Rankin Inlet has no trouble coming across hardwood to burn.

Make no mistake though -- the stove, which was sealifted in last fall, wasn't purchased purely for practical reasons.

"We bought it for decoration too. Instead of candlelight, we have a woodstove."

Over in Kugluktuk, Todd Roche said that many people are surprised to find out that a good patch of spruce trees lies just 113 kilometres outside of the Kitikmeot community.

"We have as good a wood supply as anyone down south with all the driftwood that comes down the Coppermine River," said Roche, a Nunavut Wildlife Management Board employee.

"We're closer to the treeline than most people give us credit for."

However, he said that many of the community's residents who added the cast- iron appliances to their homes still preferred the old standby.

"Most people prefer to burn scrap wood from construction sites. You can collect enough over the summer to burn all winter long."