Traveling Michiganders asked to leave firewood at home

Tree-killing insects, diseases can be transported on firewood; travelers should purchase wood at destination


Temperatures are heating up just in time for Memorial Day, and millions of Americans are expected to hit the road to travel during the holiday weekend.

But for those traveling in Michigan, especially those with plans to go camping, environmental experts are urging people to leave the firewood at home.

The firewood you have stored in your backyard is likely harboring plenty of insects -- and some of them might pose serious threats to trees and vegetation. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking people to leave their firewood at home when traveling, so as not to transport and spread any tree-killing insects or diseases.

“Moving firewood when you camp, hunt or head out for a weekend getaway means you risk carrying tree-killing insects and diseases inside the firewood,” a DNR press release reads Wednesday. “Bugs can crawl out, infesting trees and carrying diseases that can forever change the landscape of the places you love.”

The emerald ash borer is cited by the DNR as a familiar example: In the early 2000s, the insect spread across Michigan and killed many of the state’s 700 million ash trees. Officials say that in Michigan, more than 140 pests and diseases can be transported with firewood. Some insects and diseases like the Asian longhorned beetle, beech leaf disease and the spotted lanternfly are reportedly infesting nearby states, and officials are worried that they may make their way to Michigan.

“On their own, these insects and diseases can’t travel very far, but they can travel hundreds of miles on firewood,” said Sue Tangora, Michigan DNR forest health and cooperative programs section supervisor. “Trees cut for firewood often died due to insects or disease. Why risk carrying oak wilt to your cabin or beech bark disease to your favorite camping spot?”

Here are some tips from the Michigan DNR for making a campfire safely:

  • Wood that looks clean and healthy can still have tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungi spores that can start a new and deadly infestation. Always leave your backyard firewood at home, even if you think it looks fine.
  • Buy firewood near where you will burn it -- a good rule of thumb is only using wood that was cut within 50 miles of where you’ll have your fire.
  • Use to find a firewood vendor near your destination. With over 350 Michigan listings, you can comparison shop before you arrive.
  • Certified, heat-treated firewood is safe to move long distances. Look for a federal stamp or seal on the package, and keep the firewood in the original packaging if entering a campground that requires heat-treated wood.
  • Aged or seasoned wood is still not safe. Just because it is dry doesn’t mean it’s clean. A recent study showed insects continued to emerge from firewood even three years after it had been cut.
  • If you buy firewood and don’t burn it all, don’t bring it home or to your next destination.
  • Tell your friends not to bring wood with them -- everyone needs to know they should not move firewood.

The Michigan DNR says that visitors at state parks are asked to purchase certified, heat-treated firewood that is sold in the parks or at local stores and stands.

Related: Invasive gypsy moths expected in Lower Michigan, aerial treatments planned

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.