Is Storing Firewood a Fire Hazard?

Nothing prepared me for what my insurance adjuster claimed the last time he was at my house. He was there to check water damage from a burst pipe, but he decided to take it upon himself to warn me outdoor firewood pile was a fire hazard and needed to be removed. That was a shock to me since I pay an insurance premium on a wood burner and pellet stove in my basement.

After being transferred from one person to the next my insurance company was finally able to answer what I though was a simple question. Is storing firewood a fire hazard?

Storing firewood is not a fire hazard under most circumstances. Don’t place the wood pile near alternative fuel sources and avoid keeping it near an open flame. There are other stipulations that go into effect if you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires or live in a major city. Fire officials don’t want fires to spread from one structure to the next. Check with your insurance company and fire department to find firewood rules specific to your local area.

So why did my insurance adjuster tell me I couldn’t have firewood on my property? The guy is probably an idiot considering I live out in Northern Ohio’s Amish Country. More than half the houses in my county are heated with wood stoves. There are a few scenarios where it might not be a good idea to store firewood near your house.

Storing Firewood Usually Isn’t a Fire Hazard

Whether or not firewood is a fire hazard is up for debate. One side says that wood can be burned for fuel so it must be a fire hazard. The other side says that wood isn’t going to spontaneously combust so there’s no real danger to the surrounding property. Is storing a firewood a fire hazard?

Generally speaking, storing firewood is no more of a fire hazard than using kiln dried lumber in your home. If you keep your firewood away from an open flame it should never light on fire. You have other problems to worry about if there’s big enough flames to light up your wood pile.

With that being said, I still recommend calling up your insurance company to ask their opinion. My insurance company charges me an extra dollar or two per month to use a wood burner in my home. If my house had caught on fire without that insurance rider the damage wouldn’t be covered.

You might also run into other city/state specific regulations that might come into play. Check with your local fire department to find out the legal requirements in your area. I’ll go over a few of the common problems below.

Watch Out For City Regulations

Most cities have regulations on the books to prevent city wide fires. Since houses are so close together a small fire can quickly jump from one house to the next. Some cities outright ban fires and others have stipulations in place that you need to follow.

The last place I lived required fires to be in a controlled firepit and wood had to be stacked at least 30ft away from surrounding buildings. Thanks to the 30ft rule I wasn’t able to legally store firewood anywhere on my property. I kept it in the middle of my yard which was technically illegal, but everybody looked the other way since I never caused problems.

Are There Wildfires In Your Area?

I don’t have a lot of experience with wildfires, but I’ll refer you to the California Firewood Task Force’s rules on firewood storage. They state that firewood can be stored outside as long as it’s at least 3ft away from structures. That’s actually closer than I would recommend storing wood next to your house anyway.

Keeping firewood next to your house can invite insects into your home. Keep an eye on insect infestations if you do decide to store firewood next to your home.

I recommend spraying your wood with a boric acid based pesticide to kill termites and carpenter ants that have invaded your wood pile. Zap-A-Roach is my favorite product, but any of them will work. Boric acid is non-toxic to humans and pets so it’s perfectly safe to spray on your firewood. Unlike traditional pesticides, boric acid is about as dangerous as table salt so you can burn treated wood in indoor and outdoor fires.

Can I Store Firewood Indoors?

This is one of those questions that’s tricky to answer. There are a few reasons that storing firewood inside is a bad idea, but most people choose to ignore them. Obviously, a big firewood pile isn’t the best thing to have in a burning house, but that’s not the main reason why storing wood inside is a bad idea.

There are two main problems with storing wood inside. It will take forever to dry and season your wood indoors, and you’re inviting pests into the house/garage. Firewood piles are the perfect home for carpenter ants and termites. Throw in the occasional mouse/spiders and you can see why people don’t like storing wood indoors.

I recommend keeping most of your wood in a convenient sunny place 20-30ft away from the house and only bring in what you need for a few weeks. I like to choose a sunny day once per month to load my garage up with wood in the winter.