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Air quality district shares tips on preparing wood for winter

Burning Dry Wood

Believe it or not now is the optimal time to begin gathering or purchasing your wood for next winter as it can take from six months to two years for some wood to be dry enough to burn efficiently in your EPA certified wood stove. There’s really no calculator that can tell you exactly how long a specific type of wood takes to season, because there are so many variables at play. What you can do, no matter where you live, or the type of firewood you gather, or purchase, is to properly season it.

Seasoning Your Wood

If you want your firewood to dry as quick as possible, make sure to split the logs as soon as possible while leaving them outside. Since firewood dries from the ends, not from the bark, the more exposed the ends are the quicker drying time. Firewood should measure at lower than 20 percent moisture with a moisture meter. If you live in the Greater Portola area, please contact the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District today at 832-0102 for a free moisture meter!

Storing Your Wood

Once you are ready to stack the firewood, make sure to do so on the sunny side of your property, as constant sunlight directed towards your wood stack will make it dry even better.

Also take into consideration proper ventilation – as you stack the firewood, make sure to leave openings in between to let the airflow pass through so that everything inside dries quicker. Having a large amount of airflow through the wood helps it dry more quickly. An open style woodshed design can assist with this airflow. When stacking your wood in any type of enclosure make sure all sides are open to the air to optimize drying. A roof over the stack can help keep the wood protected by the environment. You don’t want to enclose the wood on all sides by something like a tarp as it can inhibit air flow and drying of the wood.


You also want to avoid stacking the wood directly on the ground. When wood is stacked directly on the ground, the bottom layer can wick up ground moisture, is not subject to air flow and is more susceptible to mold and insects such as termites, which can destroy your firewood. There are numerous options to stacking your firewood directly on the ground; these include pressure treated 2 x 4’s or using old pallets as the base of your wood stack. If you have no option to stacking your wood directly on the ground, you can stack the first-row bark side down to inhibit some of the moisture wicking that can occur.


There are numerous types of woodsheds that can be constructed to further protect your firewood and to assist with proper ventilation and drying. Check out firewood stacking and storage options at the websites below:




Safety, Health and Why to Burn Dry Wood

When properly seasoned, dry wood burns in a stove at temperatures that allow the smoke that comes from burning to be fully ignited. This full ignition of the smoke prevents the buildup of creosote in your chimney. Creosote forms when wet wood is burned. When burning wood that has greater than 20% moisture content; optimal burning temperatures cannot be achieved, and as smoke escapes up the chimney the gases cool and condense leading to the formation of a tar, which eventually hardens into creosote. Creosote is basically unburnt fuel and can lead to a chimney fire.

When the creosote builds up and burns in your chimney the result is a chimney fire. These fires can reach more than 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. At best this can destroy your chimney structure and at worst it can ignite and fully destroy your home. Burning dry fuels can help prevent this risk and the build up of creosote

Burning unseasoned wood also leads to air pollution. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has classified the greater Portola Area as having the fifth worst air quality in the nation. Research has shown that this pollution is directly linked to our topography and the use of woodstoves in the local area. Older uncertified woodstoves produces more pollution then current EPA certified woodstoves. But even if you are burning in an EPA certified woodstove, if you are burning wet, unseasoned wood, you are contributing to the air pollution in the local area.

The biggest health threat from woodsmoke is from fine particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they may cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses, such as bronchitis.

Fine particles can make asthma symptoms worse and even trigger asthma attacks. Fine particles can also trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure.

Burning dry wood in an EPA certified woodstove can help mitigate the health risks mentioned above.

Do you live in the Greater Portola area?

Click on the link below to see if you qualify to apply for a change out of your old uncertified wood stove.  The NSAQMD has great replacement options including EPA Certified Woodstoves, Pellet Stoves, propane or oil burning devices and even heat pump systems.

Call us today to see if you have an EPA certified woodstove or if you think your stove is 20 years or older. 832-0102




If you live in the greater Portola area and already have or are getting an EPA certified woodstove contact us today for a free high quality woodshed! The Air District has two woodsheds remaining this season. You can call for a tutorial and materials to build your own quick and easy wood storage option like the one shown below.

Constructed with four 6 feet green T posts that cost about $25, galvanized roofing at approximately $20 and the 2 (8 ft long landscape timber) at $10. Holds about ¼ cord of wood and has great flexibility on where you can place it. Photo submitted by NSAQMD

Contact us Today

The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, Portola field office, is looking for community involvement. We have numerous resources on air quality, clean wood burning practices, wildfire air quality data and much more. Contact us today at 832-0102, [email protected] or visit our website at www.myairdistrict.com






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