ALBANY - The state Department of Environmental Conservation is reminding people that all residential brush burning is prohibited during the high-fire-risk period from March 16 through May 14.
"Since the open burning regulation passed in 2009, there are a fewer number of fires reported in New York State this time of year," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release. "I urge everyone to be cautious with the risk of wildfires and remind all New Yorkers that the statewide ban is in effect through mid-May beginning this week."
In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. While the 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, according to the DEC. Data from DEC's Division of Forest Protection show that debris burning accounted for about 36 percent of wildfires in the state between 1985 and 2009 - more than twice the next most-cited cause. In addition, from 2000 to 2009, New York's fire departments responded to an average of 2,300 wildfires each year during the period of March 14 through May 16 or about 46 percent of all wildfires for the year.
Fire department data for 2010, 2011 and 2012 indicated a 35 percent reduction in wildfires during the burn ban period for those years when compared to the previous 10 years (2000-2009). In addition, 80 percent of all communities across the state had a reduction of wildfires as compared to the previous ten years.
Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with the minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online on DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/67751.html . A list of questions and answers on the new open burning regulation is available at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.html 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 in these municipalities at all times without a written permit from DEC.