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Jackson County Company Uses Heat Against Invasive Bug

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PRESTON, Iowa - One local firewood company is using heat as a tool to help prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer.

Owner Derek Heiar and his team at Iowa Firewood Products put together about 1600 bundles of firewood every day, and load them onto pallets for delivery.

"We've got wood going to Florida, New Jersey, and every state in the midwest," Heiar said.

Two large propane and wood-fired kilns are what allow him to take his firewood outside Iowa's emerald ash borer quarantine zone. The kilns not only dry the wood so it's ready to burn, but also kill off any parasites that might be trying to hitch a ride.

"The heat treatment is killing the bugs, so we're heat treating to 140 degrees for 60 minutes," Heiar explained.

Heiar said they started the kiln drying and heating process back in 2008, before the ash borer threat had become a larger concern. That makes his firewood USDA certified, letting him sell it anywhere he wants. He told us that it's done good things for his business, but lately there have been other factors at work.

"I don't think it's done as much as the cold weather and the demand for firewood, but we are able to move wood into areas that we wouldn't be able to," Heiar explained. He added that business has doubled every year since 2010, and this summer, he's planning on buying another kiln larger than the two he currently runs to keep up with demand.

Heiar said even though completely stopping the spread of the ash borer seems unlikely, he gets some satisfaction knowing that the way he does things should at least help to slow it down.

"The heat treatment is only to take it outside the quarantine," Heiar said. "Well, as the quarantine grows, there's going to be less and less need for certification."

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