Burning Sumac or White Pine
by Thomas S. McNamara
(Saratoga, NY USA)
I live in upstate New York. Winters are long and cold, firewood is plentiful. The area I live in is somewhat rural, with quite a bit of state and county land, as well as plenty of back roads and utility easements.
A nice variety of hardwood and softwood trees, both native and introduced, grow here. In no particular order, these include pines, spruces, hemlocks, tamaracks, cedars, locusts, maples, oaks, ashes, willows, cherries, apples, dogwoods, poplars, lindens, birches, beeches, mulberries, walnuts, hickories and more.
Trees fall over and limbs break off on a regular basis from many kinds of inclement weather, including freezing rain, thunderstorms and heavy snows. Much of the land here is wooded swamp, so eventually trees give out and keel over from a combination of root rot and soil compositions that don't support tall heavy trees. I have harvested a fair supply of downed and dead wood, as well as standing dead trees from a variety of spots.
The only two types of wood I will not harvest for indoor burning are: White Pine or any type of Sumac. White Pine has way too much sap, making the cutting and handling of it extremely messy. As anyone who knows a little bit about firewood knows, burning this particular wood generates way too much creosote.
I use white pine only for outdoor starter wood for a barbecue grill, or I just throw it in the burn pile. I don't bother with any varieties of Sumac. The wood contains too high of a moisture content to dry out in a short amount of time, the amount of heat produced when burning is negligible and it is difficult to tell poisonous from non-poisonous varieties when the Sumacs are dormant or not flowering.
So pretty much any other type of wood besides White Pine and Sumac are fair game. Scotts pine, also known as European redwood, actually makes a decent firewood.