Yesterday we read an article by The Daily Mail entitled “Why fashion for wood-burning stoves is putting parks at risk: Fireplaces cause crime spree as owners chop down trees to use as cheap source of fuel”.
The article states that 15 trees have recently been chopped down in Plymouth’s Central Park, with experts claiming that the culprits are ‘opportunists’ looking for cheap fuel. While it is evident from the article that the claim of wood burners being responsible is speculative, with no justification offered other than the rising number of wood burning stoves installed in the area, we felt it was important to address the issues raised in this article properly.
The first issue is the unsafe and unplanned removal of trees from a public space. It is of vital importance for the environment, and for future generations that firewood is responsibly sourced from managed woodlands. Without sustainable management strategies, woodland can be permanently damaged, habitats destroyed, and trees quickly depleted without replacement.
It also goes without saying that felling trees without proper equipment and training can easily result in serious injury for both those involved, and potentially others should the tree be left in an unsafe condition afterwards. As mentioned in the Daily Mail article, illegally felling trees can also result in prosecution, with the hefty fines attached far outweighing the cost of purchasing responsibly sourced wood fuel.
The second issue is that anyone burning wood they have removed from a living tree is at serious risk of damage to their wood burning appliance, and hazardous situations in the home. ‘Green’, or freshly cut wood has an extremely high moisture content, and must be left to dry, or ‘season’ for six months to two years before it is dry enough to be burnt. Burning wet wood causes a build up of soot and tar in the chimney flue. This can lead to excess smoke, chimney fires, or to carbon monoxide poisoning when the flue is too blocked for the harmful gases to escape up the chimney.
Cutting heating costs
While burning wood is still usually cheaper than gas or electric heating, it is still important for many of us to keep costs as low as possible, and though the temptation to source ‘free’ fuel can be strong, it is not worth the risk of harm to the environment, our homes, and our families.
With such a large choice of fuels available, it is possible to find one for every budget. Smokeless coal is a firm favourite with many, and can be safely burnt on any multi-fuel stove (check the manufacturer’s handbook). Low cost brands like Homefire Ovals and Taybrite, while not burning with the ferocity of properly seasoned wood, will burn consistently and for a long time, often staying in overnight.
While many firewood merchants, ourselves included, will recommend Kiln Dried Logs as the best performing and most reliable wood fuel, cheaper ranges are available that are both perfectly safe, and responsibly sourced. Netted logs are the cheapest option, and will require at least six months of drying time before use. This means that they’re ideal for stocking up in the spring and summer months to be ready for use in winter.
Summer is also the perfect time to find a bargain price on both firewood and coal, with merchants across the country holding yearly summer sales, often with massive discounts attached to help customers prepare for the approaching colder seasons.
It is our hope that the culprits, whatever their reasons for removing the 15 trees from Plymouth’s Central Park, will cease to cause any more damage to the park, and that all owners of wood burning stoves are properly educated about the importance of burning only sustainably sourced, well seasoned fuel.