Firewood business thrives during battle with Emerald Ash Borer

While the battle against the Emerald Ash Borer is leading to an expanded quarantine, it’s not stopping business from booming at a Jackson County sawmill.

The screeching saw tells quite a story.

“It’s cutting the wood to length and then splitting it,” said Derek Heiar.

It’s slicing the way to Heiar’s business, Iowa Firewood Products, in Preston, Iowa.

“It’s crazy around here,” he said.

They transform trees into safe firewood. After taking roots a decade ago, business tripled over the last two years.

“I would never have guessed it could be something like this,” he said.

Long before the Emerald Ash Borer emerged, Heiar, now 30, started chopping wood in high school. These days, his eleven-person operation sells to big name clients like Home Depot.

“I would look for the origin of the wood, the county it came from, to see if it’s USDA certified,” he said.

It’s a battle now against Emerald Ash Borer. That’s why his wood spends time in kilns.

“It’s going to reach a core temperature of 145 degrees for 60 minutes,” he said.

Heat treatment kills bugs and makes it suitable for firewood.

“It makes us feel good knowing that we’re helping to stop the ash borer from spreading,” he said.

Most infestations start by people moving firewood, nursery plants or sawmill logs. That makes this business even more important.

“It could be a standing tree a week ago, and it could be packaged today,” he said.

Crews turn out some 1,500 bundles each day. That fills eight semi loads every week.

It’s a strategy to fight the Emerald Ash Borer while building a business.

“We’re trying to slow the process of it spreading,” he said. “This is what the state has to do.”

Iowa Firewood Products plans to expand in the coming year. It will be moving forward on the cutting edge.