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Buy It Where you Burn It

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Buy It Where you Burn It

Be aware that firewood can harbor insects and diseases that threaten California’s valuable forest resources. Transporting firewood can move these pests to new locations. Use firewood in the same county or region where it was cut.

Protect California Forests –
Ask these questions when buying firewood

You can help keep California’s forests safe from damaging pests by asking a few simple questions before buying firewood.

1. Has this firewood been heat treated or cured?

Heat-treated firewood is always preferred as heat treating eliminates live pests which could be transported in or on firewood. If heat treated firewood is not available, the next best alternative is firewood that has been cured or seasoned, lowering the risk for some – although not all –pests.

2. Where was this firewood harvested?

If the firewood has not been heat treated, be sure it was cut locally and don’t move it out of the area. Firewood that is not heat treated may have pests and diseases that should not be transported to new locations. If the wood is not from a local source, you should consider finding a new firewood vendor selling local or heat-treated wood.

3. Am I near an area of increased concern for firewood pests?

Various regions in California are infested with invasive tree-killing insects and diseases that are at high risk for spread via firewood movement, including the goldspotted oak borer, polyphagous shot hole borer, sudden oak death, and pitch canker. Take the highest level of precaution in these areas when purchasing firewood by buying heat treated wood, gathering wood on site when permitted, or, if neither of those options is available, purchase wood very local to the area.  Buy or gather only what you need and burn it completely. 

The problem with moving firewood

Why is moving firewood such a bad idea? Tree-killing insects and diseases can lurk in firewood. These insects and diseases can’t move far on their own, but when people move firewood they can jump hundreds of miles. New infestations destroy our forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control.

Stop invasive species

Specific pests that may be transported via firewood in California:

• Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer

• Goldspotted Oak Borer

• Phytophthora ramorum/Sudden Oak Death

• Pitch canker

• Emerald Ash Borer

• Asian Long-horned Beetle

Risk of Invasive Species Movement on Wood Products

Pests and pathogens can be spread via the transport of unprocessed logs and other wood products to woodworkers, lumber and veneer mills, or other user groups. An outbreak of laurel wilt was linked to the transportation of infested redbay wood by an amateur woodworker. Thousand cankers disease, which infects black walnut, has been accidentally introduced several places via the woodworking and veneer industries.

Woodturners and wood carvers sometimes prefer to use blocks of green wood with bark intact, making it high risk for unknowingly transporting pests. This green wood is traded at the regional, national, and international level. It is sold at large shows, events, and on the Internet as well as traded among individuals.

Outreach efforts to date about the risks associated with non-firewood wood products have focused on educating woodworkers about state quarantines (neither walnut nor redbay is regulated by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), invasive species issues, and the benefits of obtaining wood locally. Wood product users interested in being a part of the solution should become familiar with tree species and the pests they may harbor so that proper precautions can be taken when procuring materials. To learn more about how to help stop invasive species spread, go to the Continental Dialogue’s “Insects and Diseases Threaten Your Wood Supplies” at continentalforestdialogue.org/library/activities/2012/WoodTurners.pdf.

Questions and Answers

1. Why should I be cautious about moving firewood? Firewood can carry invasive insects and diseases that can kill native trees. New infestations of these insects and diseases can destroy our forests, lessen property values, and cost a great deal to monitor, manage, and control.

2. Which firewood-related pests should I be concerned about in California? Insects such as Emerald ash borer, goldspotted oak borer, Sirex woodwasp, gypsy moth and Asian longhorned beetle, or diseases, such as Sudden Oak Death, can be carried by firewood.

3. Why are non-native insects and diseases so much worse than the native ones? Native trees have evolved to survive with local insects and diseases. Likewise, native predators eat native insects and that keeps their numbers in check (environmental balance). Non-native insects and diseases have few (if any) predators, and the native trees have few natural defenses against them. Invasive insects and diseases reproduce quickly and outcompete native species.

4. What are other states and regions in the United States doing about this issue? Some Midwest and East Coast states have quarantines that prevent you from moving firewood more than 50 miles, others don’t allow you to move wood from county to county, and some states don’t allow firewood to be transported from other states.

5. My firewood has no visible signs of insect or disease infestation. There are no bugs, holes, burrows, or sawdust. Is it OK to transport it? Tiny insect eggs, or microscopic fungus spores, can elude experts. These tiny threats are enough to destroy an entire ecosystem. Never assume wood that “looks safe” is safe to move.

6. How far is too far? A good rule of thumb is “The shorter the distance you move firewood, the better.”

7. How should I dispose of my firewood if I accidentally move it a long distance? Burn it quickly and completely. The sooner and faster you burn the wood, the less risk you’ll pose to local live trees. Make sure to also rake up any dropped leaves, bark, twigs or other debris and burn them, as well (Note: Please check burning restrictions/regulations before burning wood waste).

8. What can I do with the fallen wood and brush from my property? Firewood, brush, and debris from your property pose no threat if you don’t move it very far. Composting, chipping, burning, or transporting it to a local disposal facility are acceptable ways of dealing with wood waste on your property. Moving firewood material long distances increases the risk.

9. Where can I find out about firewood information in California? The Department of Agriculture has information about best management practices or rules and regulations relating to firewood. Also visit firewood.ca.gov or dontmovefirewood.org website for additional information.

10. What can I do to reduce the chances of moving invasive species in firewood?

Don’t Move Firewood: Buy It Where You Burn It.

Ask your firewood seller where he/she obtained the wood. If it isn’t nearby, or its origin is unknown, consider obtaining your firewood from another local firewood seller.