Sunday's grassfire in Sheridan prompts us to issue a reminder that we are currently banned from doing any open burning this time of year.
Since October 2009, all open burning is prohibited in New York with several exceptions including the following:
Campfires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter are allowed.
Small cooking fires are allowed.
Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.
Only charcoal or clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned.
Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires are allowed.
In towns with a total population fewer than 20,000, you may burn tree limbs with attached leaves. The limbs must be less than 6 inches in diameter and 8 feet in length (also referred to as brush). However, this is not allowed from March 16 through May 14 due to the increased risk of wildfires.
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 and 2011 indicated a 26 percent reduction in wildfires during the burn ban period for those years when compared to the previous 10 years (2000-2009).
In addition, 86 percent of all communities across the state had a reduction of wildfires compared with the previous five 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 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 www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.html on DEC's website.