N.H. bakes camp firewood in a huge oven to kill invasive insects


Monitor staff

Published: 06-19-2023 10:44 AM

As the state once again urges not to carry camp firewood from one place to another because it spreads tree-killing insects, a huge kiln in Concord continues doing its part.

The walk-in kiln behind the Department of Corrections Retail Showroom on North State Street has been operated by the department for five years, baking firewood for state parks.

The program buys logs that are cut into 16-inch lengths, then split into firewood by hand or by machine, cooked for 90 minutes at 160 degrees and put into mesh bags, 1 cubic foot at a time. The bags are sold at state campgrounds from Sunapee to Bear Brook to Mollidgewock, guaranteed free of bugs that will infect the surrounding forest.

The Department of Corrections has used inmates to make firewood for decades, but the state bought the kiln only after the arrival here of emerald ash borer, the insect that is wiping out ash trees throughout the continent. New outbreaks of the beetle often happened near campgrounds, which made people look at campers’ imported firewood as a carrier. 

State research by foresters has found that, on average, each piece of firewood contains 35 insects. New Hampshire, like many states, bans the import of firewood but campers often bring their own. If they come from out of state – and New Hampshire hopes a lot of them do, to spend money here – that’s a real problem, since the insects that flee the logs as flames get closer might start a new outbreak.

Hence the state program to sell bug-free wood.

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The program delivers around 35,000 bags every year, close to 300 cords of wood. At the start of camping season, it fills a huge barn with them in preparation for delivery in huge dump trucks.