People crave a crackling blaze in the fireplace during the holiday season.
“As the holidays approach it becomes a ‘thing’ in Southern California to have a fire because it’s the closest thing you can get to holiday spirit around here,” said Martin Cobbs, an inspector with the county’s Weights and Measures Division.
Cobbs cautions, however, that when buying wood, every cord counts.
A cord is the standard measurement used for stacked wood, equaling 128 cubic feet.
State law requires that firewood be sold by the cord or in fractions of a cord.
But many consumers, unaware of the law, are vulnerable to being shortchanged, especially by part-time wood sellers also unfamiliar with measure requirements, Cobbs said.
In November, at least six people complained to county officials that they had not received the amount of wood that they had paid for and in December several more people called in to complain, he said.
The division will investigate dealers who have not delivered the proper amount of wood, but it helps if the consumer has stacked and measured the wood before paying for it, Cobbs said.
One hundred twenty-eight cubic feet can be measured by stacking the wood to match dimensions of eight feet in length, four feet in height and four feet in width, Cobbs said.
“We’ve had problems in the past with people not knowing what the cubic footage is,” Cobbs said. “If they don’t know they’ll never check.”
The division does not control the price of wood, which varies depending on the dealer and the wood type.
Some wood sellers list a cord of oak at about an average of $200, eucalyptus at about $160 and avocado at about $110.
Oak and eucalyptus wood is harder in texture and burns slowly, producing more heat.
Avocado is much softer and generally is used by people who burn a fire for aesthetic reasons, said Jim Kenton, who has been selling firewood for 18 years as a sideline to his tree-pruning business.
“If it’s stacked . . . it’s not hard to figure out,” Kenton, owner of Sunrise Tree and Property Maintenance, said of the measurement requirement.
Georgine Ryan, owner of Gold Coast Firewood, added that the law keeps merchants honest.
“I would prefer that people would get what they paid for,” she said.