Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall’s debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.
In 2020, DEC Forest Rangers extinguished 192 wildfires that burned a total of more than 1,122 acres. In addition, firefighters from local fire departments, many of which are volunteer, all too often have to leave their jobs and families to respond to wildfires caused by illegal debris fires.
The annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning began March 16th and will run through May 14th. You can view DEC’s Fire Danger Maps on their website to see current fire danger ratings by region.
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. Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, but people should never leave these fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round. For more information about fire safety and prevention, go to DEC’s FIREWISE New York webpage.
Forest Rangers, DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs), and local authorities enforce the burn ban. Violators of the State’s open burning regulation are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.