May 24, 2022
By Tom Watson
There was once a time when you could bring firewood from home to the campground, collect an armful of squaw wood (thin pieces/limbs of dead wood), or even cut your own from the dead fall on the forest floor. Those days are almost gone.
Now you can't even bring a few fireplace logs or chunks from the backyard spring clean up! The threat from invasive, tree-destroying critters makes such acts a finable offense throughout much of the country.
In Minnesota, for example, we are very concerned about the potentially devastating threat from the emerald ash borer. Since ash is also a premiere firewood species, we should all be concerned about this invasion. The state Department of Natural Resources has authorized wood merchants now whose firewood has to be certifiably safe. Bring some from out of the area and you are in big trouble!
As a safety precaution, wood is stripped of its bark to help eliminate the habitat for beetles to hide, and to detect telltale channels in the sapwood and other signs characteristic of certain invasive critters. Unless you really know your trees from the inside, you may not be able to tell one species from another. I graduated from college with a degree in Forestry and I don't remember squat about interior wood characteristics.
Since the DNR has given its blessing to certain wood merchants, the easiest way to know what you are getting is to simply ask. Here are some of the more common campfire woods (sold and gathered where allowed) ranked according to their all-around performance as good firewood.
The criteria is basic: heat production, flame size and duration, speed of burn, and for cooking production of a good bed of coals. Other attributes to help you decide include the amount and quality of smoke, aromatic smells and flavorings, and the amount of sparks generated: