The Douglas fir is a large coniferous evergreen that may grow over 300 feet in the right conditions. That’s a lot of firewood! Commonly found in western North America, its timber is popular as an ornamental and in construction. But how good is Douglas fir as firewood? This guide closely examines how it compares to other popular varieties of wood.

Will Douglas fir make good firewood?

Douglas fir is a popular softwood that is easy to light, blazes hot, and is easy to split. Like any conifer, its wood is loaded with sap and resin, which makes for a smoky, sparking fire. This wood also has poor coaling properties, so you’ll need to feed the fire regularly to keep it blazing.

  • Easy to split into neat kindling pieces.
  • Gives off moderate amounts of sparking and popping.
  • Easy to light, burning fast and hot.
  • Pleasant, mild aroma that’s less intense than cedar.
Infographic showing Douglas fir firewood statistics

Douglas fir firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

Heat output is an essential consideration when you’re choosing firewood. Sitting in the lounge at home or crouched around a campfire, you need to stay warm.

Douglas fir provides 20.7 million BTUs per cord, much lower than hardwoods like black locust or oak. It has similar heat to other softwoods like aspen, Ponderosa pine, and cedar.

Wood with a low BTU is still perfectly fine for use in a fire. It’s excellent for kindling or burning in the shoulder season when temperatures are still mild. You may also like to burn it with other hardwoods, which provide longer-lasting heat but aren’t always easy to light.

Check out the following table comparing the heat output of Douglas fir to various other common types of firewood.  

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
White fir14.6
Engelmann spruce15.0
Quaking aspen18.2
Silver maple19.0
Douglas fir20.7
Lodgepole pine21.1

2. Smoke

Douglas fir may give off moderate to high levels of smoke. You may have sore, red eyes if you’ve got an open fire. Wood stove owners won’t find the smoke such a big issue. Properly seasoning the firewood before use will help reduce the amount of smoke.

All firewood should be sufficiently seasoned before it gets tossed into the fire. Green wood is inefficient as the fire uses its energy to evaporate water instead of giving off heat.

3. Ease of splitting

Douglas fir has a straight grain and is a soft wood that is easy to split. It is ideal for chopping into neat, evenly-sized pieces of kindling.  

Split Douglas fir when the wood is green to speed up the drying process. Logs that have already dried out turn hard, making them tough to split. Look for cracks and aim a maul of splitting axe directly at them.

4. Sparks

Douglas fir will often give off some sparks as it burns, which some people find unsettling. A stray ember may cause carpet burns or create a fire hazard with open fire.

Make sure the wood is well seasoned to help reduce popping. Keeping up a fire guard is also a necessary safety precaution.

5. Aroma

Douglas fir gives off a pleasant mild fragrance as it burns. It has a subtle pine aroma without the intensity that you get from cedar.

Meat smokers and barbecue enthusiasts shouldn’t use Douglas fir for cooking. The fire burns out too quickly, and high levels of creosote deposits aren’t an ideal combination with food.

6. Coaling

Firewood that produces good-quality coals will provide longer-lasting heat. Douglas fir is a softwood and has poor coaling properties. You’ll need to keep feeding the fire frequently to keep it going.

7. Creosote build-up

Creosote is a type of black tar that slowly gets deposited inside chimneys as the fire burns. Softwoods like Douglas fir produce significant levels of creosote. It clogs up the chimney over time, so you’ll need to clean it more regularly than if you burned hardwood like hickory or oak.

How long does it take to season Douglas fir?

Douglas fir will take around six months to season in warm, dry climates. In cool regions, we recommend allowing eight months for the wood to cure. Burning firewood too soon will produce smoky fires that don’t reach their heat potential.

Tips for seasoning Douglas fir

Seasoning time can be reduced by using old wind-fallen or dead trees. Most of the moisture content will already have been removed from the wood. You can also accelerate the drying time by following these tips:

  • Split the firewood: splitting logs increases the surface area exposed to wind and sunlight.
  • Raise the wood: lay the cut wood on pallets to create airflow.
  • Position correctly: speed up drying time by facing the stack towards the wind and avoiding shady, damp areas.
  • Create gaps in the rows: build stacks with a 3-5″ gap between each to help circulate the air.
  • Cover the wood: use a wood shed or cover the stack with a tarp to protect the stacks from rain and snow while keeping one side exposed to the wind.
A row of limbed Douglas fir logs ready for bucking

Commonly asked questions

When is the best time to chop Douglas fir for firewood?

It is best to fell and split Douglas fir between winter and early spring. During this cold time of year, there is lower sap and moisture content, resulting in faster-seasoning wood that doesn’t spark as much.

Is Douglas fir good for smoking meat?

Douglas fir can give food an unpleasant flavor, and it will coat your smoker with creosote. Better options for meat smoking include hickory, mesquite, apple, or peach.

How can I identify a Douglas fir firewood?

The wood from a Douglas fir will vary depending on the location and age of the tree. It usually has a straight grain and a light brown wood with darker growth rings.

An illustration of a Douglas fir on a white background

7 fast facts

  1. The botanical name for Douglas fir is Pseudotsuga menziesii; it is from the family Pinaceae.
  2. Douglas firs are neither a fir, spruce, nor pine tree. It is a unique genus with a botanical name that translates to “false hemlock.”
  3. The trees grow moderately quickly, with some species growing 13–24″ yearly.
  4. Douglas firs are the most popular “fir species” used as firewood in the United States.
  5. They can live for 500 years old and reach a height of 200 feet.
  6. Other names for the Douglas fir include the Columbian pine, Oregon pine, red fir, common Douglas, and Douglastree.
  7. The two varieties are Rocky Mountain Douglas fir trees and Coastal Douglas firs.
A Douglas fir forest in America's Northwest.

Summing up

Douglas fir provides a heat output rating of 20.7 million BTUs, less than popular hardwood alternatives. Other cons of Douglas fir are poor coals, popping, and high smoky fires.

With all its negatives, Douglas fir is still suitable for use as firewood. It catches alight fast, making it ideal for kindling. The wood is also great mixed with slower-burning hardwoods. If you live in an area where this fir is prolific, it makes sense to use it.

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