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New firewood regulation takes effect on Jan. 1

Guidelines from the Oregon Department of Agriculture


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO  - Out of state firewood may harbor invasive pests. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has finalized the rules for a new state law addressing imported firewood, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Starting in the new year, Oregonians should look for two types of firewood — local firewood and wood that has been heat treated and labeled as pest free — for sale.

The 2011 Oregon Legislature passed the firewood law and gave ODA regulatory authority. For the past year, ODA has been working on the rules that go along with the law. The agency has finalized those rules in an effort to diminish the possibility of dangerous insects coming into Oregon on firewood.

“The rules prohibit firewood from outside the Pacific Northwest unless it has been treated at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour to kill all the pests inside it,” said Dan Hilburn, director of plant programs with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “That’s very important because there are invasive pests and diseases outside of our region that could travel to Oregon on firewood.”

Even though local firewood is not required to be labeled, commercial sellers can choose to do so anyway. A product label is allowed to claim an approved Pacific Northwest firewood. A pest free label, however, will require the same heat treatment needed for firewood originating from outside Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

“There will be wood that is cut in Oregon, Washington or Idaho that is allowed without heat treatment,” Hilburn said. “That is the best firewood. If it harbors any insects, they are the ones that are native to Oregon. Those are not a threat to our forests.

“The other kind that will be available to consumers is firewood coming from outside the Pacific Northwest which will be heat treated. It will have a label stating that it is pest free.”

States with invasive species problems like emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle or sudden oak death have plenty of dying trees that are cut for firewood and then moved. These trees die in the first place because of the insect or disease, which can then show up hundreds of miles from any local infestation as people take the wood with them or sell it far from the source.

“This is the kind of regulation we hope will simply guide people’s behavior,” Hilburn said. “ODA will be checking labels as we go about our other business to make sure people are complying, but everyone agrees the best way to enforce this law is to get the word out.”

For more information, call 503-986-4663.