RAY BROOK — With spring approaching, conditions for wildfires will become heightened, so the state is reminding people that residential brush burning is prohibited March 16 through May 14 across New York.
And, in most of the North Country, that burn ban extends all year long.
Since the ban was established in 2009, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6 percent, from 2,649 in 2009 to 1,521 in 2018.
“While many people associate wildfires with the western United States, the start of spring weather and the potential for dry conditions increases the risk for wildfires in New York,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release.
“New York prohibits residential burning during the coming high-risk fire season to reduce wildfires and protect people, property and natural resources.
"The ban has been extremely effective in reducing the number of wildfires, and we're encouraging New Yorkers to put safety first.”
State regulations allow residential brush fires in some towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires in New York occur.
A number of towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park, are designated "fire towns."
Open burning is prohibited year-round in these municipalities unless an individual or group has a written permit from DEC.
Most communities in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties are considered fire towns.
Even though much of the state is still blanketed in snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise, DEC notes.
The agency posts daily a fire-danger rating map and forecast during fire season on its website, www.dec.ny.gov, and on the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App, available on DEC's website.
Currently, wildfire conditions in the state are considered low risk.
Historically, open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York, DEC says.
When temperatures are warmer and the past fall's debris, dead grass and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily. They are further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.
Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, DEC said in the release, but people should never leave such fires unattended and must extinguish them.
Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round.
Violators of the state's open-burning regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.
To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) or report them on DEC's website.