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Ask 13: Is the public allowed to take wood from alongside the interstate?

"I was wondering if anyone was allowed to pick up wood off the side of the interstate?" Tyler Banks wrote to Ask 13. "There is lots of good fire wood I could use next winter. It would be nice if you figure it out and let everyone know." (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Lots of trees and branches fall in the public right of way along local highways, but does the public have a right to pilfer those hardwoods?

"I was wondering if anyone was allowed to pick up wood off the side of the interstate?" Tyler Banks wrote to Ask 13. "There is lots of good fire wood I could use next winter. It would be nice if you figure it out and let everyone know."

Sometimes trees are being taken down by the state to protect drivers from falling trees. Other times, it's just dead wood that falls on its own.

News 13 recently encountered a woman cutting and gathering fallen trees along the interstate, working alongside DOT hired contractors who were cleaning up the debris from recent tree cutting.

However, the North Carolina DOT says collecting firewood on an interstate is not allowed.

"Safety is the utmost importance at the NCDOT for motorists, for contractors, for our employees," David Uchiyama, an NCDOT communications officer, said. "Stopping to pick up the wood along I-40 in Haywood County creates more hazards for everyone involved and even those driving. Whether you're in a small Prius or 18-wheeler, having more hazards on the side of the road is a bad idea."

News 13 also contacted the North Carolina Highway Patrol to get their take on this. They agreed that stopping along the interstate for any reason other than an absolute emergency is dangerous and unlawful.

So, while you may witness people picking up firewood from time to time along the interstate, that doesn't make it right. In fact, studies show that most crashes on the interstate are caused by vehicles parked on the side of the road.

If you have a question you'd like answered, write to Ask13@WLOS.com.

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