ABCs of Fireplace Management

One of the more enjoyable things about mountain living enjoying a quiet evening by the fireplace. Even spring and summer evenings in Big Bear could be cool enough to enjoy a cozy fire.

But in these days of environmental consciousness, it pays to know the whys and hows of building a fire. One thing that new homeowners may be glad to know is that wood burning is allowed in Big Bear Valley and does not have the same restrictions found in other areas of Southern California.

The key to successful wood burning, according to the website, is having good quality firewood. Wet wood and pieces that are not the right size and shape for the wood burner can result in inefficient burning and the deposit of creosote that could fuel a dangerous chimney fire.

Density and moisture content influence wood’s value for burning. Dense hardwoods such as maple and oak have higher energy content per cord and release more heat per load. They also produce long-lasting fires and coal beds.

Softer woods like birch, pine, spruce and poplar are less dense, burn faster and do not produce a long-lasting coal bed.

To store firewood, stack the wood in separate rows in an open location where the sun can warm it and breezes can carry away moisture. Do not stack unseasoned wood tightly in an unvented storage area.

Stack the wood off the ground on poles, lumber rails or pallets. Cover the top of the pile to keep off rain, but do not cover the sides.

Softer woods cut, split and stacked in the early spring are ready for burning in the fall. Hard woods may take a full year to dry enough for use.

Look for checks or cracks in the end grain of a log to decide on dryness. Wood tends to darken from white or cream color to gray or yellow as it dries. Two pieces banged together sound hollow if dry, and solid and dull if wet.

Last but not least, buy wood where you will burn it. California’s trees are at risk from insects and diseases that can move on firewood. Pests can be transported by wood and infect an area, causing problems for trees in that area. Wood should be cut within 50 miles of where that wood will be used for a fire.

Firewood should not be stacked against homes in Big Bear Valley as it increases fire risk. Stack firewood a safe distance from structures.

Here are some tips from the California Firewood Task Force:

• Leave firewood at home. Do not transport it to campgrounds or parks.

• Use firewood from local sources.

• Bring only what you’ll need and burn responsibly.

For more information, visit the website