Careful what you burn

25 June, 2015Posted in: Environment
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Wood fire smoke

As the cooler weather sets in, Wingecarribee Shire Council is reminding residents to check their timber before they light up their wood heaters.

“Although all wood will burn, not all wood is safe to burn,” said Council’s Environment and Sustainability Manager, Barry Arthur.

“It’s vitally important that people are aware of where their timber originated from before they spark up their wood heaters,” he said.

The warning comes following a series of reports of residents burning inappropriate wood fuels.

“Council Rangers recently responded to a call where a resident was burning old railway sleepers,” Mr Arthur said.

“It’s important to remember that old rail track sleepers are contaminated from oil and grease dripping from the trains,” he said.  “Many of these contaminated products contain heavy metals such as chrome, which are harmful if breathed in as fumes.”

“This same advice applies to any wood which has been chemically treated with preservatives or contaminated by other substances that when burnt can give off harmful, or even fatal, fumes.”

“These fumes can escape sealed combustion heaters and any neighbours and nearby wildlife such as birds who breathe in these fumes may also suffer toxic exposure.”

Other examples of potentially contaminated wood include treated timber from construction sites, old fence palings, power poles, sleepers and bridge or wharf timbers.

“Some timbers treated with copper chrome arsenic (CCA) can sometimes be identified by their distinctive faded green colouring,” Mr Arthur said.  “Others may be more difficult to identify.”

“However, as a general rule of thumb, if you can’t confirm or are suspicious of any old or waste timber, don’t burn it.”

“Always source your wood from reputable firewood suppliers.”

Council’s warning follows a spate of recent carbon monoxide poisonings where owners have been overcome with fumes burning inappropriate wood fuels in their homes.

“While the lure of free or cheap firewood from an old building site might sound appealing, it’s not worth risking your own health or that of your family and neighbours just to save a few dollars.”

For more information visit  To report a wood smoke issue contact Council’s Rangers on phone 4868 0888.