CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Crisp fall temperatures give Virginians a timely excuse to build and burn real wood fires for relaxing or heating, and quality firewood is essential.
Fortunately, Virginia has more than 16 million acres of forestland and is home to over 350 species of trees, most of which can be used for firewood in some capacity.
With a bountiful natural supply—and a plentiful stockpile made available by local timber producers—forestry officials are reminding Virginians to purchase local firewood this fall and winter.
“We prefer to see people buy firewood from their local area,” said J. Miller Adams, a forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry and a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Forestry Advisory Committee. “Or they can purchase from a producer who can heat-treat and package wood to make sure it’s safe to be transported to other areas.”
He explained that it’s usually fine to move firewood within a local area. “The problems tend to arise when people take firewood and go a long distance with it, for instance, when they camp.”
Among the possible issues caused by hauling timber is the increased risk of transporting invasive pests and harmful tree diseases. In Virginia, there are established quarantine areas for emerald ash borers, European gypsy moths, pine shoot beetles and spotted lanternflies, as well as the thousand cankers disease, which harms black walnut trees.
To mitigate the potential spread of these pests and diseases, firewood generally should remain within 10 miles of its source, and not be moved farther than 50 miles away.
Sabina Dhungana, VDOF forest utilization and marketing program manager, noted buying local firewood promotes healthy forest management and directly supports Virginia tree farmers.
Timber producers and other merchants often sell firewood by specific species or as mixed wood, and the firewood typically is sold pre-seasoned, which means it’s ready to burn.
For the best heating experience, Dhungana recommended Virginians purchase hardwoods, which burn cleanly and slowly, and provide plenty of warmth for the colder months ahead.
“Oak, hickory and maple are species that grow in Virginia and are great for firewood,” she said. “Most firewood sold in Virginia is either red oak or white oak because of their density, which is a quality that makes the species desirable. For indoor applications, hardwood is the way to go.”
Virginians who don’t have access to private forestland can visit a Virginia state forest to cut their own timber in designated areas with a firewood permit. Permits are issued by VDOF, and more information can be found by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Virginia Farm Bureau