Burning Poles as an Idea

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

Can we burn scrap utility power poles in campgrounds? Of course, these would be nail/screws/plate free, just wood.


Scrappy Idea

Dear Scrappy Idea,

Wood utility poles are nearly always heavily treated with one or several preservative chemicals to prevent rot and insect infestation. The chemicals that are most common in North America are pentachlorophenol, chromated copper arsenate, copper naphthenate, creosote, and ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate. These preservatives include heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals – and therefore this potential wood source would be very hazardous both to your health, and to air quality, to burn in a campfire, fire pit, or wood stove setting. I would highly urge you to find another source of wood for campfires, whether that’s gathering wood near your campsite when permitted, or purchasing local firewood.

Thank you for asking!

Editor’s Note: we edit, shorten, and make anonymous all Dear Don’t Move Firewood entries- but they are all derived from real emails or Facebook posts! 

Burning a fallen ash tree

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

Our ash tree fell in a storm. We know about not using it for firewood or transporting it, but what can we do? It is a 20 year old tree that was 20 foot tall. Thanks.


Hopeful Tree Reuser

Dear Hopeful Tree Reuser,

You are welcome to use your ash tree for firewood if you are burning it in the immediate vicinity of where the tree grew- whether in your own woodstove, your patio fire pit, or even your next door neighbor’s wood stove, too. The problem with ash trees and moving firewood is when you move the wood miles and miles away from where the tree grew, but burning it locally is fine. Please note, without knowing exactly where you live, I can’t say for sure that moving this wood off your own property is legal- so do check on local regulations if you intend to move the wood past your own property line, just to be safe. Regulations vary greatly across the country and even sometimes between cities.

The main practical alternative to burning it as firewood would be chipping it up into mulch. You can often rent chippers, or get a landscaping company to do this for a fee. Another idea is that if your area has municipal composting, you can bring it there to be chipped and turned into fresh soil. And last but not least, if the tree is in a place where it isn’t bothering anybody, you can just leave it there. Of course, that only makes sense if you have a large property, but it is an option!

Oh, and one last thing to keep in mind- if you believe your tree is/was infested with emerald ash borer, and you’d like to minimize the chance that the fallen tree allows more beetles to emerge this year, you should dispose of it as soon as possible.

Thank you for asking!

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Editor’s Note: we edit, shorten, and make anonymous all Dear Don’t Move Firewood entries- but they are all derived from real emails or Facebook posts!