MALONE — Mild temperatures predicted for the next several days mean homeowners will have to resist the urge to burn dry grass, twigs and leaves uncovered by vanishing snow.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation's third year of a ban on open burning started Friday and runs until May 14, during the state's historically high-risk period for wildfires.
"This is when we've had half of our wildfires occur each year, during these two months," said Lt. Gary Friedrich, zone supervisor of forest rangers in DEC Region 5.
"All of the dried grass after the winter with the snow gone, the warm sun shining on it and the wind drying it out makes a wildfire easy to start," he said. "It's all dried out, and it ignites easily."
And once it gets going, a grass fire can quickly spread out of control.
Forecasts from the National Weather Service are calling for temperatures between 55 and 63 through the weekend across the North Country, with little chance of precipitation, which will be a temptation for many hoping to spruce up their lawns.
"This time of year has the most risk of fires, and the risk is even greater this year due to the extremely mild winter we've seen across the state," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in a news release.
Friedrich said so far the ban has proven very successful for the environment and those who have to quench the flames when a grass fire occurs.
"Fire departments are saving time and manpower," he said, and they are at a lower risk of being tied up battling a grass fire when a true emergency like a house fire is reported.
The ban started in 2009, prohibiting all residential open burning during this high-risk time.
But open burning is allowed most of the rest of the year in nearly all New York communities with a population less than 20,000 unless they have been designated fire towns by the DEC.