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DEC issues fire danger warning

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Wed, Jul 1st 2020 10:10 pm

Use of fireworks during Independence Day Weekend leads to increased hazard

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos urged New Yorkers to practice the utmost safety during the upcoming holiday weekend. Dry weather throughout the month of June has increased the risk of fires.

"We were fortunate to see some rain this past weekend, but the majority of lands across the state remain very dry,” Seggos said. "Recognizing the temptation to set off fireworks this weekend, DEC is encouraging New Yorkers to remember that, in addition to being dangerous and in some cases illegal, fireworks can start wildfires.” 

There are currently three active wildfires in the state: one in St. Lawrence County; one in Herkimer County; and one in Tompkins County. Collectively, these fires are burning nearly 11 acres of land, and in some cases are 18 inches deep, requiring a pump operation with large volumes of water. Two other fires in St. Lawrence County over the weekend burned another 11 acres of land. 

The majority of the state remains at a moderate risk for fires, meaning any outdoor fire can spread quickly, especially if the wind picks up. Campfires are among the top five causes of wildfires. Fireworks are in the top 12. According to the National Safety Council, each year in the U.S. fireworks are responsible for more than 18,000 fires.

For a safe July 4 holiday, DEC said to follow these safety tips:

√ Never use illegal fireworks;

√ Soak spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding; and

√ Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or to use in case of fire. 

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 also is banned in New York. DEC encourages composting of leaves; and

√ Disposal of flags or religious items in a small-sized fire is allowed if it not otherwise prohibited by law or regulation. 

For information on open burning and campfire safety in New York, visit DEC’s “Open Burning in New York” and “Fire Safety When Camping” webpages.

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