What about burning cut pallets?

Pallets, lumber, and other cut and dried scrap wood are indeed good to burn (as long as you are completely sure they were not treated with any chemicals such as arsenic or methyl bromide, which are very hazardous when burned). But are they ok to transport?

Dear Don’t Move Firewood;

I have a question about moving wood. I will be camping in NC this weekend and I was wondering if wood that has been kiln dried and milled is ok to transport? I have a source for old shipping pallets and would like to use those as firewood. Could there be any problems with using scrap lumber?



Dear Tony;

Great question. Old shipping pallets pose a few risks despite being dried and milled. For one thing, pests like the Spongy moth (which is found in NC and surrounding states) will lay their egg cases on nearly anything that is outside- so moving cut pallets that were stored outside for a few years very much risks moving that pest into your preferred camping area. Further, old pallets in particular stand a decent chance of having been fumigated in the past with the chemical Methyl Bromide. This is not a chemical you want to breathe- it is a known carcinogen- especially when you are trying to enjoy the fresh air of the great outdoors. Last but not least, sometimes campgrounds do not permit wood from the outside, especially scrap wood like this. Sometimes that’s because of pest threats, and other times that for the reason of nails, brackets and staples injuring workers as they periodically clean fire pits.

My advice is therefore that scrap wood and cut pallets can be burned at home if you are 100% sure they are not treated with wood preservatives or Methyl Bromide, but it still isn’t wise to bring it camping.

Oh, and last but not least, laws vary hugely by state. You don’t say where you are from, so I can’t comment on if bringing wood into North Carolina from your starting location is illegal or not. But it might be. And that’s not a good scenario!

Thanks for reading, and asking!

Hot off the virtual presses!

Our annual Spring Cleaning press release is ready for business! I hope we get a lot of coverage, and here it is in its entirety;



Tree-killing insects and diseases can be spread when disposing of yard waste

ARLINGTON, VA—March 21, 2012–With the arrival of spring, homeowners and gardeners are beginning the task of cleaning up their yards and gardens to prepare for the growing season. Spring also can bring rain and wind, knocking down branches and trees weakened by ice or late winter storms. Gardeners, landscapers, and anyone working outside this spring need to know that tree branches, firewood, and cleared brush can harbor invasive insects and diseases, making proper use or disposal critical to preventing the spread of tree-killing pests.


More than 450 non-native forest insects and diseases are now established in the United States. While most can’t move far on their own, many pests can hitchhike undetected on firewood and brush, starting new infestations in locations hundreds of miles away. These infestations can destroy forests, lower property values, and cost huge sums of money to control. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, estimates for damage costs in urban areas for just one invasive pest, the Asian longhorned beetle, range from $1.7 billion for nine selected cities to $669 billion for the entire United States.


“Even experts can’t always detect a couple of pin-head size insect eggs or a few microscopic fungus spores hidden in wood; however, these tiny threats are enough to destroy an entire forest,” said Leigh Greenwood, Don’t Move Firewood campaign manager, The Nature Conservancy.  “Disposing of tree debris, brush, and other yard waste either on site or through municipal composting are the best ways that homeowners can prevent spreading tree-killing pests as they clean up their yards and gardens this spring.”


Pest infestations can take years to be recognized by the authorities because sometimes trees appear healthy despite harboring harmful organisms. Many states have either regulations or quarantines relating to the movement of raw logs, unprocessed wood, or firewood. Depending on the types of problems present in a given state, these regulations might include cut firewood, raw logs under a certain length, high risk species of trees or brush, or other woody materials.  Some of the invasive pests that have prompted both federal and state quarantines include the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, spongy moth, pine shoot beetle, sudden oak death, sirex wood wasp, and the hemlock woolly adelgid.


“During the spring, people also can be on the lookout for signs of invasive pests as they work in their yards and gardens,” said Greenwood.  “Although these insects and diseases can sometimes be difficult to detect, observant, concerned citizens are usually the ones who discover new infestations.”


Tips for spring cleanup:


  • If you don’t want to keep your firewood until next winter, don’t be tempted to take it with you when camping, and don’t bring it along on any road trips. Instead, you can give it to your next-door neighbor, burn or chip it on site, or dispose of it locally.
  • Hire a tree service or rent a tree chipper to shred fallen trees and branches and brush into mulch for your own garden beds and landscaping projects.
  • Many areas now offer a yard waste recycling program. Contact your municipal solid waste management department for information specific to your area.
  • If a yard waste recycling or composting program is not available, and you cannot keep it on site, brush, logs, and branches should be disposed of in a local landfill.
  • Take care to respect all state and local regulations on the movement of firewood and other unprocessed wood – some areas are subject to serious fines for violations. For more information, visit https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/the-problem/state-state-information/index.html.
  • During your spring cleanup, if you notice an insect or tree disease you don’t recognize, take a photo or obtain a specimen of it, and compare it to Web site photos of the suspected pest. A good resource to help in identification is: https://www.dontmovefirewood.org/gallery-of-pests.
  • If you believe you have found a new outbreak of an invasive insect or disease, contact your state department of agriculture: https://www.rma.usda.gov/other/stateag.html.




To learn more about how to prevent forest pests from destroying forests, log onto www.dontmovefirewood.org.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at www.nature.org.



What about big box stores?

Dear Don't Move Firewood,


For this to work, you really need suppliers not to hike up their prices.  Which I  have run into, trying to be "good"  Also, how come a place like Stop and Shop can sell wood from different states?





Dear Tim,


I agree. I hope that firewood dealers all across the nation are taking this not as an opportunity to make more money off of small bundles, but instead to increase the amount of wood they sell overall. But the key to this is demand- in order for firewood cutters and vendors to make enough money and keep their prices low, they need to have a lot of sales.


As a regular person, what you can do to help is talk to the campground host or firewood dealer. Tell them that you think it is really important to keep the prices at a level that doesn't alienate the consumer. Change comes slowly, and don't forget to be courteous.


In terms of your second question, the answer is that interstate commerce- even for firewood- is pretty well regulated. Therefore, for one state to receive firewood from another, there was probably some level of inspection of the product. Now, here at Don't Move Firewood we don't normally advocate for visual inspection of firewood because it is too tough, but in this case the assumption is that the firewood is from a reputable dealer that is certified and in compliance with all state and federal regulations. So the risk of that firewood containing pests is quite low- far lower than firewood you'd cut from wood in your own backyard, or firewood from the back of some stranger's pickup truck on a country highway.


Just another episode of our advice column!





Do you need brochures?

Firewood Outreach and Educational Specialists of North America! Are you listening? We have a lot of materials to help you engage with the public on the topic of forest pests and the movement of firewood. All you have to do is tell us how you are planning on using our materials, what sort of demographic group you will be interacting with (i.e. kids vs. adults from the general public vs. a Master Gardeners class) and give us an estimated number of what you need. From there, we work with you to send out the materials that best suit your needs.


Intrigued? We have brochures, posters, fake tattoos, frisbees, water bottles, and more. These things serve the purpose of getting people to talk to you, getting them to think, and in the end- getting them "to buy it where you burn it, and don't move firewood."


Request materials by emailing us; info (at) dontmovefirewood DOT org. Make sure to include your parcel address, a good justification of where the materials will go, and an estimate of how many people you'll be interacting with. If you need things by a deadline (i.e. you want them a week before Earth Day) please indicate that specifically in the email.


Hope to hear from you soon…