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High risk fire season approaches

NEW YORK — According to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, all residential brush burning is prohibited, during New York state’s high-fire-risk period, now 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,” Martens said.

“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.”

New York toughened restrictions on open burning, to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires, in 2009. While the regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year, in towns with a population of fewer 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.

According to the DEC, several factors enable wildfires to start and spread, during this time, including a 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. Data from the DEC’s Division of Forest Protection showed that debris burning accounted for approximately 36 percent of wildfires in the state, between 1985 and 2009, more than twice the next most-cited cause.

From 2000 – 2009, New York’s fire departments responded to an average of 2,300 wildfires each year, or 46 percent of all wildfires for the year, during the period of March 14 – May 16.

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. In addition, 80 percent of all communities, across the state, had a reduction of wildfires, as compared to the previous 10 years.

Violators of the open burning state 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 1-800-847-7332 or report online at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/67751.html. A list of questions and answers about the new open burning regulation is available at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.html.

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.

To find out whether a town is a designated “fire town” and/or to obtain a permit, parties should contact a DEC regional office. For a directory of the DEC regional offices, visit www.dec.ny.gov/about/558.html.
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