LOUDON — Forest rangers will be at the gates of New Hampshire Motor Speedway to confiscate out-of-state campfire wood from campers at this week’s race events.
The town’s deputy fire chief, William Lake, said only local wood is acceptable for campers at the speedway’s summer events, including this weekend’s New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Authorities either take out-of-state campfire wood or exchange it with New Hampshire wood, he said, to prevent the spread of a destructive bug called the emerald ash borer.
“The forest rangers have been checking at the gate for the past few years, not allowing any out-of-state wood in at all, only good-old Granite State wood is allowed,” Lake said.
The emerald ash borer is just one of the bugs that could arrive in out-of-state firewood, said Piera Siegert, a state entomologist, but it poses a terrible threat to the Granite State as it has struck ash trees in 11 communities.
“It’s killed millions of ash trees out west, and people are probably going to be seeing some ash fall in New Hampshire from it this summer,” Siergert said.
According to federal forest officials, the bug, which is native to Asia, is considered a major forest pest in the United States. It is so deadly to ash trees that it threatens the entire North American ash family, forestry officials said in a media release.
People move the bugs in products from the trees they infest, like nursery stock, logs, lumber, chips and firewood. Firewood is considered the most risky of wood products in part because it is transported by a wide cross-section of society, from commercial producers to camping enthusiasts.
“Transporting firewood increases the probability of introducing a new forest pest and the likelihood that it will survive long enough to emerge before the product is consumed,” federal officials said.
The bug is already killing ash trees in the forests surrounding the speedway, which hosts the two largest camping events in the state each year during the July and September NASCAR races. Both races attract fans from across the country.
Forest rangers began firewood quarantine enforcement at the speedway in 2013, as well as at the first race there in 2014. During a nine-day enforcement period at the speedway in 2014, officers made 225 firewood confiscations. A speedway quarantine of outside firewood was put into effect in 2011.
Ranger surveys indicated that 15 percent of the confiscated firewood came from the bug’s quarantine zones in other states. Some people even hauled firewood from as far away as California, Washington, Canada and Florida. Some visitors had small bundles of sticks, while others had truck beds filled with firewood.
“The end result was from one race to the next, people knew we were going to be there, and there was some deterrent in that,” said Bryan Nowell, a state forest ranger.
“The issue here is about the potential risk of any outdoor venue attracting tourists from across the country, some of whom haul potentially infested firewood long distances, which can harm our forests,” said Nate Siegert, a federal forest service entomologist in Durham.
Lake said the bugs have been found in parts of Loudon and Canterbury.
“They can be a real problem, so we can’t take any chances,” he said.