The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding New Yorkers that all residential brush burning is prohibited during the state’s historically high fire risk period beginning March 16 through May 14.
“Since the open burning regulation passed in 2009, we’ve already seen results in fewer number of fires reported in New York State this time of year, known as the highest fire risk time,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “It’s our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our children, families and our natural environment, therefore, we remind all New Yorker’s that this is a time of risk and the statewide ban is now in effect through mid-May.”In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. While the new regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a population of less than 20,000, it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring when the bulk of New York’s wildfires typically occur. The new regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places.
Several factors enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly at this time, including the lack of green vegetation, abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves, warm temperatures and wind.
Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York State. Data from DEC’s Forest Protection Division show that debris burning accounted for about 40 percent of wildfires in the state between 1986 and 2006 – more than twice the next most-cited source. In addition, from 2000 to 2007, New York’s fire departments responded to an average of 2,600 wildfires each year during the period of March 14 through May 16.
DEC Forest Ranger data for 2010 indicated a 33 percent reduction in wildfires caused by debris burning during the burn ban period last year when compared to the past 10 years, including weather considerations. In addition, based on information provided by statewide fire departments, 70 percent of the smaller communities across the state had a reduction from overall number of wildfires.
“Franklin County Fire Departments reported significant reductions in the number of wild-land fire responses during the statewide burn ban in 2010,” said Rick Provost, Franklin County Emergency Services Manager. “We believe that the burn ban regulation will continue to reduce wild-land fire responses in the spring fire weather season. Wild-land firefighting can be very dangerous and when a regulation reduces the number of response it directly impacts Firefighter safety in a positive way.”
Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with the minimum fine of $375 for a first offense.
A list of questions and answers on the new open burning regulation is available at on DEC’s website.
Some towns are designated “fire towns” primarily in and around the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park. Under Environmental Conservation Law, open burning is prohibited at any time in these municipalities without a written permit from DEC. To find out whether a town is a designated “Fire Town” and/or to obtain a permit, parties should contact a DEC regional office.