Cool Weather Signals Start of Fire Wood Purchases

Officials Urge Residents - Particularly in Prince George's County - Not to Transport Firewood to Prevent the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer

ANNAPOLIS (November 15, 2007)—With the onset of cooler autumn weather, many Maryland residents are turning on their furnaces and stocking up on wood to heat their homes. Anyone buying or selling wood should be familiar with regulations governing the measurement of firewood so that consumers get what they pay for. The Maryland Department of Agriculture's Weights and Measures Section regulates the sale of firewood.

There is currently a quarantine in Prince George's County prohibiting the movement of ash wood materials and all hardwood firewood out of the county. The restriction is to prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that kills ash trees and was shipped illegally to the county on infested nursery stock in 2003. Officials urge county residents and sellers of firewood not to transport firewood out of Prince George's County to homes, hunting or camping locations, rather buy it where it will be burned.

"It is important that any Maryland resident buying firewood understand the way it is measured and that any person selling firewood in Maryland know and follow the law so that consumers get what they pay for and so that we protect our forests and neighborhood trees from damaging insects," said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Roger Richardson.

Maryland regulations require that firewood sold in the state only be sold by the cord, or fractional parts of a cord. Any other term, such as truckload, rack, face cord, or pile, is illegal.

"Most consumers do not understand the meaning of a cord, or they are unaware of the many ways wood can be stacked to look like a cord when it isn't," said Weights and Measures Chief Will Wotthlie. "If the seller uses a term other than a cord or a fraction of a cord, consumers should be suspicious."

A cord is the amount of wood stacked and stowed in a well-compacted manner in a space of 128 cubic feet, typically in a stack measuring four feet wide, by eight feet long, by four feet high (4 x 8 x 4 = 128 cubic feet), with no internal gaps. When properly stacked, the individual pieces of wood are in a line, parallel to and touching each other. Cubic feet is calculated by multiplying the width of the stack by its height and length.

Bulk sales of firewood must be accompanied by a delivery ticket containing the date of delivery, the name and address of the seller and buyer, the quantity of wood delivered, the cost of the wood, the type of wood delivered, and the license number or other identifying number of the vehicle that transports the wood. Any seller who refuses or is reluctant to provide complete information should be considered suspicious.

Wotthlie recommends that wood be delivered and stacked when the buyer is home if possible so that he or she can promptly measure the stack with a tape measure and determine the correct quantity is received. If the buyer cannot receive the delivery in person, he or she should measure the stack as soon as possible. Do not burn any of the wood before measuring it or resolving any discrepancies.

"We recommend that consumers contact the seller immediately if there appears to be any discrepancy and attempt to resolve the matter," Wotthlie said. "If the seller can't or won't correct the problem, consumers should call us before burning any of the wood."

The Weights and Measures office in Annapolis can be reached by calling 410-841-5790, or 1-800-492-5590, or online at:

For more information about the emerald ash borer and restrictions on firewood, log onto and click on the Maryland link. Information is also available by calling the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center at 800-342-2507 (in state) or 410-531-1757 (out of state) or the Maryland Department of Agriculture at 410-841-5920.

Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture

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