Softwoods are useful for starting fires and building small, fast hot fires. The characteristics however that make them useful for starting fires don't necessarily make them good for longer burning fires.
Some wood, especially conifers, have lots of pitch which is very combustible and makes it ideal for kindling. Others, like cedar, smell wonderful. They tend to be less dense than hardwoods which accounts for their quick burning, comparatively low heat output. That said, many softwoods dry more quickly than hardwoods. Given a choice between a lot of dry fir or not completely seasoned oak, pick the fir. You'll have much less difficulty building a good fire and have virtually no creosote build up.
The best fires are a combination of woods. When purchasing wood, look for a good mix of high energy, dense hardwoods and softwoods.
|Ease of Splitting||Smoke||Sparks||Smell||Overall Quality|
|Cedar, White||12.2||Medium||Yes||Some||Excel||Good/Excellent kindling|
|Cedar, Western Red||Medium||Yes||Many||Excel||Good/Excellent kindling|
|Cedar, Eastern Red||19.7||Easy||Moderate||Many||Excel||Good/Excellent kindling|
|Juniper, Rocky Mountain||21.8||Medium||Medium||Many||Excellent||Fair|
|Pine, Eastern White||14.3||Med/Exc||Yes||Mod||Good||Poor/Good kindling|
|Pine, Ponderosa||15.2||Med/Exc||Yes||Mod||Good||Fair/Good kindling|
|Pine, Short Leaf||20.1||Easy||Heavy||Few||Good|
|Pine, Southern Yellow||Easy||Heavy/Sooty||Mod||Good||Good/Good kindling|
|Pine, Sugar||Easy||Yes||Mod||Good||Fair/Good kindling|
|Pine, Western White||14.3||Med/Exc||Yes||Mod||Good||Poor/Good kindling|
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