Are telephone poles OK to burn?

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Gark

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2007
808
SW Michigan
An old phone co. pole looks and smells like cedar and maybe some creosote too. I know what the old liquid creo smells like 'cause as a teen we got the stuff freely at hardware or paint stores and slathered it all over stuff (preservative) including ourselves. I thought only the ground contact part of the old phone poles were permeated with creosote, but I get a whiff of it along with cedar on all cut surfaces. Was thinking of chopping these down for starters, but now not so sure. Is it safe to use in the stove (or handle) and if not, where to dispose of it? IMG_20130902_133127_142-1.jpg
 

Backwoods Savage

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2007
27,811
Michigan
I would not burn it in a stove. Too bad it was cut up thought and now can not be used for any posts. But maybe some of the claims of super type glues and duct tape, who knows? :rolleyes:
 
An old phone co. pole looks and smells like cedar and maybe some creosote too. I know what the old liquid creo smells like 'cause as a teen we got the stuff freely at hardware or paint stores and slathered it all over stuff (preservative) including ourselves. I thought only the ground contact part of the old phone poles were permeated with creosote, but I get a whiff of it along with cedar on all cut surfaces. Was thinking of chopping these down for starters, but now not so sure. Is it safe to use in the stove (or handle) and if not, where to dispose of it? View attachment 110189

I wouldn't burn any creosote treated wood. If it's old enough, maybe there isn't too much on part of it.
 

basod

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2009
937
Mount Cheaha Alabama
No the entire posts were usually treated and maybe extra creosote was painted on the bases. The gooey stuff may be gone but the chemicals are still in the wood
Power companies are actually changing out the old poles as part of an eco-friendly project -new ones are green tinted from the copper sulfate used in the preservative.

Use them for campfire stools
 

paul bunion

Minister of Fire
Apr 3, 2013
888
NJ
With the large quantity of nails and staples from people putting up lost dog, cat and tag sale signs and the chance of finding some metal from the utilities higher up I wouldn't even want to cut one up. Let alone find out how it smells to burn. Railroad ties ought to be pretty nasty too.
 

basod

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2009
937
Mount Cheaha Alabama
Railroad ties ought to be pretty nasty too.
I can tell you they smell like creosote(pungent) when cutting and the grit/rocks etc that have found their way into the cracks and crevices do wonders on a chain
 

clemsonfor

Minister of Fire
Dec 15, 2011
2,513
Greenwood county, SC
There treated with cca , copper chromted ARSENIC! Don't burn them!
 

Paulywalnut

Minister of Fire
Nov 29, 2012
2,660
Kennett Square, PA
BUT... In a zombie apocalypse, would that be safe enough to burn if needed? I need to know, it is a key part of my survival plan.
Yes. Just so you and your family are wearing gas masks:p
 

schlot

Minister of Fire
Nov 21, 2011
771
Iowa
Do you have a neighbor you don't like? If yes, perhaps you can offer them free firewood for their stove.....bad Schlot...bad.
 

Thistle

Minister of Fire
Dec 16, 2010
4,205
Central IA
In May 2007 Qwest (now Century Link) replaced an 80 yr old western red cedar creosoted pole in SE corner of my backyard.
After setting the new pole,transfered all the lines to new one that was just 2 feet to one side.Finally 2 yrs later they came back to pull the old pole.

Cut off the top 5 feet (it was in the worst shape) so to clear a overhanging branch from huge Mulberry nearby,then pulled it.Asked them if I could have it "Sure no problem..."

So soon after they laid it down in backyard I dissected it like a surgeon First was the still heavily creosoted butt end that was in the ground 7 feet - I removed & saved all the old hardware,bolts & massive iron screw-in rungs.
That was milled March 2011 into one thick beam - 4.5 x 13 inches x 7 feet long & two thick slabs eventually used to cross a shallow stream at parents acreage.Then next was two 8ft lengths that were hand-split for fence rails & two 6ft length hand-split for posts.Any slivers/scraps were saved for kindling.Took several pics,but they're on netbook & I'm not now.

Since this was in a 'private' backyard & not in public view on a street front,there was no nails,staples or any other metal fasteners anywhere that I found during processing.
 

Hogwildz

Minister of Fire
The just came through and "reinforced" two bad poles on my property. They were installed in 1970, and the bottoms are getting soft.
The dig around each one a foot or so, and they whack & chip at it with a bar. The remedy.... a pc of guard rail on vertical it's end, driven into the ground along side the pole, and 2 large band clamps top and 2 bottom around the pole and reinforcement. Then spray painted brown. Cheap f--ks. They already got their moneys worth.
I was not real happy hearing that pneumatic hammer driving that thing into the ground for 20 minutes at 9:00AM either.
 
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StihlHead

Guest
If the poles were only treated with creosote they are not a problem to burn. Its the same stuff as the creosote in your chimney. It actually burns pretty clean. There is an energy plant in Northern California that applied to operate burning old creosote RR ties. There was all kinds of flap put up about it by the environmentalists until they proved that they actually burn cleanly. The plant was given a permit and is now in operation.

If the poles were treated with other chemicals (like pressure treated wood is), then they should not be burned.
 
O

oldspark

Guest
Dont think I would burn it, its a coal tar product not a wood tar product.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,285
Southern IN

Lumber-Jack

Minister of Fire
Dec 29, 2008
2,007
Beautiful British Columbia
BUT... In a zombie apocalypse, would that be safe enough to burn if needed? I need to know, it is a key part of my survival plan.
I understand once you cut their heads off zombies quickly dry out and can be burned in your wood stove.
They may not have as nice an aroma as cherry or apple wood, but hey, this is an apocalypse, right?
 
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bogydave

Minister of Fire
Dec 4, 2009
8,426
So Cent ALASKA
A transformer caught on fire which in turn caught the power pole on fire.
Hot fire, lots of black smoke. Fore Dept arrived & put it out. Pole still there & hasn't fell over.
Yes , chemical treated poles burn.

Not gonna burn in in my catalytic wood stove though
 

clemsonfor

Minister of Fire
Dec 15, 2011
2,513
Greenwood county, SC
The just came through and "reinforced" two bad poles on my property. They were installed in 1970, and the bottoms are getting soft.
The dig around each one a foot or so, and they whack & chip at it with a bar. The remedy.... a pc of guard rail on vertical it's end, driven into the ground along side the pole, and 2 large band clamps too and 2 bottom around the pole and reinforcement. Then spray painted brown. Cheap f--ks. They already got their moneys worth.
I was not real happy hearing that pneumatic hammer driving that thing into the ground for 20 minutes at 9:00AM either.
That's crazy!
 
There treated with cca , copper chromted ARSENIC! Don't burn them!
That's the new, pressure treated poles, the same as all pressure treat. Don't burn it, don't sand it, don't cut it without a particle mask or respirator. It's so much more eco-friendly than creosote!;)

If the poles were only treated with creosote they are not a problem to burn. Its the same stuff as the creosote in your chimney. It actually burns pretty clean..

The creosote used to treat poles is a coal-tar product and is carcinogenic. It's not the same compound as the buildup in your chimney, which is also called creosote. The coal-tar creosote is safe to burn in a furnace designed for it, providing complete combustion (much like burning tires). Don't burn it in an open fire, it will not be completely oxidized and it is carcinogenic.

From Wikipedia:
"Creosote is the portion of chemical products obtained by the distillation of a tar that remains heavier than water, notably useful for its anti-septic and preservative properties.[1] It is produced in some quantities from the burning of wood and coal in blast furnaces and fireplaces; commonly found inside chimney flues when the wood or coal burns incompletely, producing soot and tarry smoke, and is the compound responsible for the preservation and the flavor of meat in the process of smoking. The name is derived from the Greek kréas (κρέας), meaning "flesh", and sōtēr (σωτήρ), meaning "preserver".[2]
The two main types in industrial production are wood-tar creosote and coal-tar creosote. The coal-tar variety, having stronger and more toxic properties, has chiefly been used as a preservative for wood, while the wood-tar variety has been used for meat preservation, wood treatment, and for medicinal purposes as an expectorant, anti-septic, astringent, anaesthetic and laxative, though these have mostly been replaced by newer medicines. Coal-tar creosote had also, in the past, been used as an escharotic to burn malignant skin tissue and in dentistry to prevent necrosis but no longer is used that way because of its toxic, carcinogenic properties and because better and safer treatments are now available. Varieties of creosote have also been made from both petroleum and oil shale called oil-tar creosote, when derived from the oil tar, and water-gas-tar creosote when derived from the water gas tar. Creosote also has been made from pre-coal formations such as lignite, yielding lignite-tar creosote and peat, yielding peat-tar creosote."
 

save$

Minister of Fire
Sep 22, 2008
1,903
Chelsea Maine
I wouldn't even use them in a camp fire. Fumes of that stuff can't be any good for you or anybody else. Also you would not want to cook over it, or toast marshmallows etc. plenty of untreated wood around without adding exposure to chemicals. Got a be a reason you don't hear of others using poles for firewood.
 

Gark

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2007
808
SW Michigan
Thanks for the replies. This phone pole was many dozens of years old, way back before they were preserved with CCA arsenic and such. Coal tar creosote treated for sure. It will not be burned.
 

Thistle

Minister of Fire
Dec 16, 2010
4,205
Central IA
The just came through and "reinforced" two bad poles on my property. They were installed in 1970, and the bottoms are getting soft.
The dig around each one a foot or so, and they whack & chip at it with a bar. The remedy.... a pc of guard rail on vertical it's end, driven into the ground along side the pole, and 2 large band clamps top and 2 bottom around the pole and reinforcement. Then spray painted brown. Cheap f--ks. They already got their moneys worth.
I was not real happy hearing that pneumatic hammer driving that thing into the ground for 20 minutes at 9:00AM either.


Wow. That sounds like something my county or state road workers would do.All that extra BS cobbling up an old pole with the hourly labor & material I cant believe a brand new pole would cost more.
 

Hogwildz

Minister of Fire
Wow. That sounds like something my county or state road workers would do.All that extra BS cobbling up an old pole with the hourly labor & material I cant believe a brand new pole would cost more.
They are subcontractors, so they are in & out as quick as they can.
They checked most of our whole road and the 8 plots of land on it in two days, and then came and did my two poles in a matter of less than an hour. Not sure how many others they had to repair.
I am sure they had a contract for a set amount to check, maybe additional charges for actual "repairs".
State guys would have been here a month.
 
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