New York Brush Burning Ban Starts March 16

"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," New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said March 12.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's commissioner, Basil Seggos, reminded residents March 12 that residential brush burning is prohibited March 16 through May 14 across New York State. With spring approaching, conditions favorable to wildfires will increase, he said in a statement posted to the department's website.

"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," Seggos said. "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."

Even though much of the state is currently blanketed in snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise, DEC noted. The agency posts a daily fire danger rating map and forecast during fire season on its website and on the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App available on DEC's website. Currently, wildfire conditions in the state are low risk.

Historically, open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in the state. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall's debris, dead grass, and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation. The state first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. State regulations allow residential brush fires in 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. Since the ban was established, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6 percent, from 2,649 in 2009 to 1,521 in 2018.

Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year round.

Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack and Catskill parks, are designated "fire towns," and open burning is prohibited year-round in them unless an individual or group has a written permit from DEC. 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.

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