Buying Firewood, the Do's and Don't to Create the Perfect Campfire

By Nushin Huq

Between 2 Pines Magazine

Leave No Trace is the cornerstone rule of enjoying the outdoors in a responsible way. It is more than simply packing out your trash, but rather it’s a framework for people to follow so that there is minimal impact when anyone visits the outdoors. You can learn more about the seven  principles of Leave No Trace at www.int.org. Periodically, we'll publish stories educating the public about leave no trace principles. 

 

One of the most memorable experiences when camping is building a campfire. Whether it’s sitting around a campfire to enjoy early morning coffee to watch the sunrise, roasting marshmallows under the stars, gathering around telling stories or singing songs, campfires are the outdoor equivalent of the family dinner table, but even better. 

 

One of the most important materials to build a fire is the firewood, both the logs as well as small pieces used for kindling. All firewood isn’t same. Small decisions, such as how you pick firewood, can have big impacts on our parks.

 

Gathering Firewood

 

Refrain from gathering firewood at your campsite. In fact, it is generally prohibited at most state and national parks. This not only includes cutting live wood, but also includes gathering dead wood. 

 

Dead wood, litter, grass, and such is an important component of a park’s ecosystem, Greg Creacy, natural resources program director at the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, said.  

 

“These materials provide habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife.  Dead plant materials are also a vital part of the nutrient cycle – providing nourishment to plants and animals,” Creacy said. “Additionally, dead wood and litter mitigate soil erosion, conserve soil moisture and provide insulation to soil and associated organisms against temperature extremes.”

 

Where To Purchase Firewood

 

   Many state and national parks sell firewood. If you can purchase firewood within the park, it is best to utilize that option.

 

The firewood offered within Texas State Parks is harvested locally and is inspected for potentially harmful pests, minimizing the risk of accidental spread or  introductions, Creacy said. 

 

The goal is to limit transportation of firewood. Leave unused firewood at your campsite for next visitor. This minimizes the risk of transporting insects and critters elsewhere.

 

In fact, the TPWD is investigating opportunities to make sure firewood is available at all State Parks without the danger of publicly-transported materials. 

 

If you can’t or don’t choose to purchase firewood at the park you are camping at, purchase is as close to the location as possible and ask about the source if the cut wood and if it has been heat-treated for pests, Creacy recommends.

 

Inspect purchased firewood for ants or other insects. 

 

Kindling

 

Small twigs and sticks are used for kindling and you might be tempted to gather what you find around your campsite. But if you are camping somewhere where collecting firewood is illegal, that includes smaller sticks and leaves for kindling. 

 

Instead, campers can safely transport their own kindling after proper treating with heat or oxygen-deprivation (sealed bag), Creacy said. 

 

Campfire, yes or no

 

Finally, check park website on fire restrictions. Depending on weather and climate, campfires may be prohibited. 

 

When all is a go for a campfire, make sure you enjoy a modest-sized campfire, Creacy said. 

 

“Large ‘bonfires’ require a lot of wood, can be dangerous, and violate [Texas] park rules.”

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