OSWEGO – Oswego County Fire Coordinator Donald Forbes reminds Oswego County residents that all residential brush burning is prohibited during the historically high fire risk period between March 16 and May 14.
Forbes said that New York State’s open burning regulation, which was passed in 2009, bans open burning from March 16 through May 14. It also prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places.
“Although last spring was not as dry as some in the past, county firefighters responded to over 40 grass and brush fires,” said Forbes. “These potentially dangerous fires can spread rapidly and ignite sheds, barns, garages and houses. People need to be aware of how rapidly a fire can spread and the amount of damage it can cause. Grass and brush fires also cost our local fire departments thousands of dollars in fuel, equipment and apparatus cost, and cost the firefighters in lost wages due to time away from work and additional time away from their families.”
According to State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens, since the open burning regulation passed in 2009, there are a fewer number of fires reported in New York State this time of year. “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,” said Martens.
In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. While the burn ban regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a populations of less than 20,000, it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring when the bulk of New York’s wildfires typically occur. The state regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and in all places.
Several factors enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly at this time, including the 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 DEC’s Forest Protection Division shows that debris burning accounted for about 36 percent of wildfires in the state between 1985 and 2009, which is more than twice the next most-cited cause. In addition, from 2000 to 2009 New York’s fire departments responded to an average of 2,300 wildfires each year from March 14 to May 16. That represents about 46 percent of all wildfires for the year.
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 (2000-2009). In addition, 80 percent of all communities across the state had a reduction of wildfires compared with the previous ten 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-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/67751.html on DEC’s website.
A list of questions and answers on the open burning regulation is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.htmlon DEC’s website.