When the weather cools off and is perfect for bonfires, or we want a cozy fire in the fireplace, it’s easy to stop by a grocery or convenience store and pick up a bundle of firewood. Where the firewood comes from, however, may not be as easy to pin down, and even wood marked “local” may be from a different county or state. Buying firewood that is truly local is an important part not only of supporting local business and getting the most for your money but also of preserving the health of the trees in your yard and neighborhood.
Imported Firewood – A Trojan Horse?
Ideally, all firewood would be properly seasoned, securely stored, and safely transported, ensuring that pests or fungus that harbor in dead wood had no chance to stow away. This is, of course, not the case, and the movement of firewood can be linked to the spread of oak wilt (Bretziella fagacearum), emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), and the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta).
- With fungi, like the one that causes oak wilt, fungal mats can grow underneath the bark of improperly-dried firewood, spreading spores as they are transported and through insect activity in their new location.
- Insects like the emerald ash borer (EAB) lay eggs inside logs.
- It can take several months for the eggs to hatch, in which time the infested wood may have traveled hundreds of miles from its source.
To combat the transmission of pests and diseases, both the USDA and individual states have enacted quarantine restrictions on wood harvested in certain areas.
- For example, the Texas state quarantine zone for EAB includes Tarrant County, making it illegal to transport certain items, like any hardwood firewood, out of the county without a permit.
- On a federal level, much of the eastern United States falls under an EAB quarantine zone, while most of the western part does not.
- Transporting hardwood firewood from Arkansas to most of Texas would violate the quarantine.
- However, quarantines are only effective if they are followed. In reality, enforcement of the transportation bans is not 100% effective, and EAB presence in the US is spreading.
- As long as there is a market for imported firewood, quarantines or not, distributors will keep moving firewood and endangering more trees.
Local Firewood – Good For Everyone
Aside from the arboricultural and legal concerns, movement of firewood, like the movement of any goods, takes time and resources, and the equipment used contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
- When you buy local firewood, you shorten the supply chain.
- Supporting firewood sellers offering reclaimed wood — wood that was destined for a landfill, such as from commercial tree trimming or removal — further reduces the environmental impact of tree removals and canopy reduction, especially after severe weather or natural disasters.
While you may not be able to do in-depth research on your firewood when making a spur-of-the-moment run to have a bonfire, taking time at the start of fireplace season can make a big difference.
- Find a reliable source for local firewood, and ask them where the wood comes from and how it is treated.
- Even with local wood, properly-seasoned hardwood makes the best fires.
- If you have space, consider buying enough wood for the entire season.
- Stored properly, your firewood will only get better with age.
At Burn This Firewood, all of our firewood, kindling, and mulch are sustainably-sourced from waste wood that would otherwise end up in landfills. Our primary partner is Texas Tree Surgeons. Questions about our process or products? Let us know!