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So the title says it all. If I am scavenging wood in the wilderness, does some of it burn toxic? If so what kinds. This question is derived from this answer.

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This is going to be highly region specific... There are some tropical tree species that can be fatal (or at least really really nasty) if you inhale the smoke. –  LBell Sep 23 '12 at 6:14

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes, some sources create toxic smoke/fumes, notably:

  • Oleander
  • Rhododendron
  • Poison Ivy (smoke can cause lung damage in some cases)

I'm not sure of a comprehensive list, but be wary of any poisonous wood / shrub, it's probably more likely to burn toxic. As pointed out in the comment, unless you can identify vines well then it may be a good idea to stay away from all of them - dead ones are hard to identify.

In addition, be aware that any wood containing sap (pine for instance) will tend to spit, so don't cook directly on such a fire, otherwise your food may get coated! These are generally OK to use if your food is well above the fire though.

I also wouldn't use any processed wood that may contain glue, varnish etc. - highly likely it could burn toxic. I know this is for a survival situation, but sometimes you can come across "easy" treated wood that's been dumped off someone (old furniture for instance.) I wouldn't just immediately grab it, especially if you're using it for cooking.

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I think I would generalize Ivy to all vines. Some are safe to burn, but dead vines are just too hard to identify. (+1 all the same) –  Russell Steen Sep 21 '12 at 12:46
    
@RussellSteen Very good point - updated! –  berry120 Sep 21 '12 at 12:52
    
Do you have a citation for toxic smoke or fumes from Rhododendron wood? –  Oreotrephes Nov 11 at 18:26

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