Open-burn ban in effect

Residential brush burning is prohibited from March 16 to May 14, the state’s historically high-fire-risk period.

In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. While the regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a population 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 2009 regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and 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, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Data from DEC’s Division of Forest Protection shows that debris burning accounted for about 36 percent of wildfires in the state between 1985 and 2009 — 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 during the period of March 14 through May 16, or 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 to 2009). 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 the minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. A list of questions and answers on the new open burning regulation is available on the DEC’s website.

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