Research and Policy
California prohibits bringing firewood into the state if the firewood originated in any area under quarantine for, or an area generally infested with, pests including emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, imported fire ant, chestnut bark disease, pine shoot beetle and others. These prohibitions - when put together - end up banning untreated firewood from nearly every state in the union. Sixteen states in the Central and Eastern US prohibit bringing hardwood firewood originating from California into their state, to prevent the movement of thousand cankers disease. The California Firewood Task Force, US Forest Service Region 5, Yosemite National Park, and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park all advise using only local firewood within California, and suggest not moving firewood over 50 miles at the very most, to reduce the spead of pests found in limited areas of California such as the goldspotted oak borer and polyphagous shot hole borer. It is illegal to remove many types of hardwood and softwood (coniferous) firewood from any county in California that is quarantined for Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum). Some California State Parks prohibit oak firewood entirely. In areas under quarantine for red imported fire ant (this includes multiple counties in Southern California) it is illegal to move firewood that has been stored in direct contact with the ground without prior authorization. This summary is accurate to the best of DMF staff abilities as of 7 January 2015.
Firewood Laws and Regulations
An existing law that may be used to monitor the movement of firewood can be found in the California Penal Code. PC 384.5 requires a person removing and transporting forest products (including firewood) to possess a valid bill of sale or written permit. While this regulation applies to commercial vehicles and not passenger cars, a pickup truck carrying more than 20 cubic feet (about ½ cord) of wood meets the commercial standard and is subject to the code.
In addition, California has laws and regulations against specific pests that may be moved on firewood. There are Federal Domestic Quarantines against gypsy moth (301.45), pine shoot beetle (301.50), Asian longhorned beetle (301.51), European larch canker (301.91), and Phytophthora ramorum (301.92) and California State Quarantines for chestnut bark and oak wilt diseases (3251), persimmon root borer (3265), and European pine shoot moth (3275). More details are below. In addition, Food and Agriculture Code 6461.5 states, “Except as otherwise provided in this article, if any shipment of plants or any other things in violation of this chapter or any quarantine which has been established, is brought into this state and it is found to be infested or infected, or there is reasonable cause to believe that it may be infested or infected, with any pest, the shipment shall be immediately destroyed by, or under the supervision of, the officer who inspects it, at the expense of the owner or bailee of the shipment.” Inspection authority is granted under CFAC code sections 5024, 5301, 5302, 5341, and 3250 (see below).
In many other states there are more specific laws against the importation or movement of firewood (see our Firewood Policies URLs document for more details). For instance, Oregon enacted a law on January 1, 2013 requiring all firewood sold in the state but originating from outside the Pacific Northwest to be heat treated and labelled as pest-free. This would include any wood imported from California.
California State Quarantines
3251. Chestnut Bark and Oak Wilt Diseases - All species and varieties of chestnut (Castanea spp.), chinquapin (Castanopsis spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), and tanbark oak (Lithocarpus densiflora) firewood, and unpeeled logs are hereby declared to be hosts and possible carriers of the pests herein quarantined against.
3265. Persimmon Root Borer - only green unseasoned firewood is restricted.
3275. European Pine Shoot Moth - only if logs have any branches or twigs of pine bearing terminal buds, needles or shoots.
Inspectors shall be familiar with and able to explain the following CFAC code sections:
- 5024 (a). The secretary or the commissioner shall, during the maintenance of any quarantine established by the secretary pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 5301) of Chapter 5, inspect any plant or thing that is, or is liable to be, infested or infected by, or which might act as a carrier of, any pest. The person who conducts the inspection shall not permit any of those plants or things to pass over the quarantine line during the quarantine, except pursuant to a certificate of inspection and release that is signed by that person.
- 5301. The director may establish, maintain, and enforce such quarantine regulations as he deems necessary to protect the agricultural industry of this state from pests. The regulations may establish a quarantine at the boundaries of this state or elsewhere within the state.
- 5302. The director may make and enforce such regulations as he deems necessary to prevent any plant or thing which is, or is liable to be, infested or infected by, or which might act as a carrier of, any pest, from passing over any quarantine line which is established and proclaimed pursuant to this division.
- 5341. To prevent the introduction into, or the spread within this state, of pests, the director shall maintain at such places within this state as he deems necessary plant quarantine inspection stations for the purpose of inspecting all conveyances which might carry plants or other things which are, or are liable to be, infested or infected with any pest.
- 3250. Automobiles, other vehicles, and their contents, subject to inspection. Automobiles, trailers, trucks, and other vehicles, baggage, personal effects, household goods, and camping implements, arriving in California from any state or territory of the United States may be placed in quarantine by the department until it has been determined by inspection that the same are free from all varieties of citrus fruits and citrus plants, and parts thereof, except seeds.