Wildfire risk still high during late spring & summer months
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos reminded New Yorkers that, despite the annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning coming to an end on May 14, caution is still required, and fires can still easily and quickly escape and spread.
“The risk of wildfires remains high this spring across New York state, so it’s absolutely essential New Yorkers are mindful of the risk when doing any kind of residential outdoor brush burning,” Seggos said. “To protect our communities and natural resources, we’re encouraging people to put safety first, don’t leave fires unattended, and ensure all fires are fully extinguished.”
Each year, DEC forest rangers extinguish dozens of wildfires that burn hundreds of acres. In addition, local fire departments, many of which are staffed by volunteers, all too often have to leave their jobs and families to respond to wildfires caused by illegal debris fires. DEC’s fire danger map for the 2022 fire season is now posted. The map gets posted once there is a moderate risk anywhere in New York and, this week, conditions statewide were designated as high fire risk.
New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring through May 14 when most wildfires occur.
DEC said, “Backyard fire pits and campfires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter are allowed. Small cooking fires are allowed. Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned. People should never leave these fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round. For more information about fire safety and prevention, go to DEC's FIREWISE New York webpage.”
Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack and Catskill parks, are designated "fire towns." Open burning is prohibited year-round in these municipalities unless an individual or group has a permit from DEC. To find out whether a municipality is a designated fire town or to obtain a permit, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/32060.html.
Forest Rangers, DEC environmental conservation police officers (ECOs), and local authorities enforce laws related to open burning. Violators of the state's open burning regulation are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report a wildfire, call 1-833-NYS-RANGERS (1-833-697-7264). To report illegal burning on private lands, call 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267) or report online on DEC's website.