Beginning in 2009, the New York State Department has implemented a ban on burning brush in an effort to help protect communities from wildfires during conditions favorable for them. 2024's ban runs between March 16th and May 14th.

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Commissioner Basil Seggos said that like Texas, where record breaking fires are being seen, New York is also at a higher risk. About the time before the ban goes into effect, Seggos commented: "we’re encouraging New Yorkers who burn woody debris to do it carefully, don't burn on windy days, and have water or equipment ready to extinguish it if needed. All fires must be attended until completely out.”

As this was an atypical, milder winter with a lack of the usual snow, dormant plants are exposed and vulnerable to the usual fluctuations of spring weather. The DEC asks for extra vigilance as firefighters have dealt with blazes across the state, most from burning debris being picked up by the wind and being deposited to dry grassy and wooded areas.

Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash
Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash

According to the NY DEC, "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."

Last April during the burn ban, there was a wildfire that stretched for miles along the Schoharie and Otsego County borders that burned hundreds of acres. New York State Forest Rangers at the time said a passing Norfolk Southern train sparked the fire, and was encouraged by dry vegetation and high winds.

The burn ban will be enforced by forest rangers, DEC police, and state and local authorities. "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. For search and rescue, reporting a wildfire or illegal activity on state lands and easements, call 1-833-NYS-RANGERS (1-833-697-7264)."

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