On July 14, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos urged New Yorkers to practice the utmost safety when building campfires this summer. Dry weather throughout June and July has increased the risk of fires.
“The sunny, summer weather is giving people ample opportunity to enjoy New York’s outdoors, but it’s also increasing the risk for fires,” Commissioner Seggos said. “When building a campfire, please make sure to always keep an eye on it and pay attention to the wind. And when finished, make sure the fire is fully out and cold to the touch.”
The majority of the state remains at a moderate risk for fires, meaning that any outdoor fire can spread quickly, especially if the wind picks up. Campfires are among the top five causes of wildfires (PDF).
The DEC continues to encourage New Yorkers and visitors to follow the recommendations below to reduce the risk of wildfires.
While camping in the backcountry, New Yorkers are advised to:
- Use existing campfire rings where possible;
- Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Pile extra wood away from the fire;
- Clear the area around the ring of leaves, twigs, and other flammable materials;
- Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly; and
- Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath.
Fire safety tips for burning wood or brush:
- Never burn on a windy day;
- Check and obey all local laws and ordinances;
- Burn early in the morning when humidity is high and winds are low;
- Clear all flammable material for a distance of 10 to 15 feet around the fire;
- Keep piles to be burned small, adding small quantities of material as burning progresses;
- Always have a garden hose, shovel, water bucket, or other means to extinguish the fire close at hand; and
- When done, drown the fire with water, making sure all materials, embers, and coals are wet.
Do not burn household trash:
- Burning trash is prohibited statewide in all cases. Incinerator rules prohibit burning household trash in wood stoves, fireplaces, and outdoor wood boilers;
- DEC recommends recycling all appropriate materials (such as newspaper, paper, glass, and plastic) and composting organic kitchen and garden waste;
- Burning leaves is also banned in New York State. DEC encourages composting of leaves; and
- Disposal of flags or religious items in a small-sized fire is allowed if it is not otherwise prohibited by law or regulation.
For further questions about wildfires, call 1-833-NYS-RANGERS and call 911 to report a wildfire.
Photo at top courtesy of NYS DEC.