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Finding silver lining in fallen trees

Chris Hughes, 58, of Northport, makes the best

Chris Hughes, 58, of Northport, makes the best of Tropical Storm Irene's aftermath and picks up free wood cut from fallen trees on Warner Road. Premier Tree Service of Farmingville was hired to clear damaged trees in the area, and the company puts out the sign for free firewood at its jobs. Whatever is not taken off the street, workers take back to the company's yard. (Aug. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Gwen Young

Chris Hughes, 58, found a way to make the best of Irene.

Driving on Warner Road in Huntington, he saw a makeshift sign on an old piece of plywood painted with the message: “FIREWOOD 4 FREE.”

He jumped out of his GMC pickup truck and looked over the pile of cut and stacked tree trunks.

Hughes spotted Chris Schwartz of Premier Tree Service in Farmingville, overseeing workers clearing a backyard of damaged trees, and asked if the wood was indeed there for the taking.

Schwartz, 33, told Hughes he could have it all, and Hughes started tossing wood into the bed of his pickup.

“It’s good wood. Locust,” Schwartz said.

“There’s even walnut,” Hughes observed. Hardwoods, like locust and walnut, are preferred for firewood, he said, because they produce less creosote buildup than soft woods such as pine.

When his pickup was full, Hughes drove to his construction site in East Northport, got a bigger truck and returned to Warner Road for more free wood. In all, he got about a cord-and-a-half that he said he’d split and dry.

“We’ll burn it in the winter for heat,” he said. “It’ll save about $150 a month in heating bills.”

Above, Northport's Chris Hughes collects free wood cut from downed trees that he will burn for heat this winter, saving about $150 a month, he says. (Aug. 29, 2011)

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