Police Use Checkpoints To Search For Illegal Firewood

Police in New Hampshire set up roadside checkpoints to search cars for illegal firewood during Memorial Day weekend, May 27-29.

Douglas Miner, a forest ranger, told the Concord Monitor that people could be fined $124, and charged with a misdemeanor for a subsequent violation.

New Hampshire's firewood quarantine banned residents of four counties from moving untreated firewood out of their counties. The ban is an attempt to stop the emerald ash borer -- a destructive beetle that can kill ash trees within three to five years -- from spreading.

New Hampshire's Department of Resources and Economic Development came up with the idea of police searching cars at roadside checkpoints.

Miner compared the police stops and searches to DUI checkpoints: "It is a similar process to follow as when DWI checkpoints are announced. Essentially they are usually adjacent to major roads where signage directs vehicles with firewood to pull off into designated areas for inspection."

If the firewood is found to be in violation of the quarantine, it will be confiscated and either a written warning or court summons issued.

Firewood that has been treated at 160 degrees for 75 minutes is considered safe to transport, but the untreated firewood is a major factor in spreading the insects into healthy forests, according to officials.

The state's Division of Forests and Lands explains its on website that out-of-state firewood poses serious bug problems:

Out-of-State firewood the Division has confiscated and studied has averaged 35 insects per stick of wood. Additionally the breadth of species has been amazing. Species from the smallest flies to the largest longhorn beetles have been found in firewood.

Today all but five states have restrictions on the movement of out-of-state firewood or advocate limiting the movement. As of July, 2011 New Hampshire has banned the import of untreated firewood unless you meet the requirements for home or Industrial compliance agreements.

The St. Ignace News reported in 2005 that the Michigan Department of Agriculture set up a checkpoint on the Mackinac Bridge with this warning: "If you come to the Upper Peninsula for vacation, leave your firewood behind or risk being fined."

Like New Hampshire, Michigan was looking for firewood that contained the emerald ash borer, as well as livestock that could spread bovine tuberculosis.

MDA Compliance Officer Al Rodrique said at the time: "Mainly, we are asking where they are coming from, where they’re going, and what they’re carrying. Our main effort is to educate them on movement requirements and provide them with information."

According to The Associated Press, checkpoints were set up along the Ohio-Michigan state line in 2004. Highway patrol troopers were looking for Michigan firewood that had been banned in Ohio because of the emerald ash borer.

Sources: Concord Monitor, New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, The St. Ignace News, AP via The Daily Jeffersonian / Photo credit: Pixabay

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