Even with a beautiful week of warm, dry weather forecast for the Finger Lakes, staff meteorologist Kevin Williams says there’s a different risk that presents itself at this time to property owners and fire companies.
The Department of Environmental Conservation is also reminding New Yorkers about the annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning that lasts through May 14. The Fire Danger Map for the 2023 fire season on DEC’s website is updated with the latest fire conditions.
DEC enforces the annual brush burning ban to prevent wildfires and protect communities during heightened conditions for wildfires. Open burning of debris is the single-largest cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures warm and the past fall’s debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily, further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation. Each year, DEC Forest Rangers extinguish dozens of wildfires that burn hundreds of acres. In addition, local fire departments, many of which are staffed by volunteers, all too often have to leave their jobs and families to respond to wildfires caused by illegal debris fires.
New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. The 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 occur. Backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed, as are small cooking fires. Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood can be burned. People should never leave these fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round in New York State.