Burn ban in effect through May 14

Warwick. The ban is an effort to prevent the spread of wildfires during the spring.

| 27 Mar 2024 | 11:58

New York State’s annual open burn ban will run from March 16 to May 14 in an attempt to reduce the spread of wildfires. The risk of fire increases in early spring due to the dried vegetation and leaves left over from the fall. The ban prohibits the open burning of leaves or brush piles, and other plant debris at residential locations.

Violators of the state’s open burn ban could face criminal and civil penalties; the minimum fine for a first offense is $500.

“While we’re seeing record breaking fires in Texas right now, we’re also at a higher risk here in New York,” NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Before the annual burn ban goes into effect [on March 16], 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.”

The DEC noted that this winter season has seen less snow than previous years, leaving dormant vegetation from last year’s growing season exposed for longer periods of time. NYS firefighters have already responded to brush fires in multiple counties this year. On February 26, forest rangers fought fires caused by debris burning in Delaware and Madison counties, including one that comprised more than 20 acres. The next day, rangers responded to separate fires in Delaware and Schoharie counties caused by burning debris that was then spread by the wind. Then on February 29, rangers tackled yet another fire up in Herkimer County.

The state first enacted a burn ban in 2009 as a wildfire and pollution prevention initiative. According to the DEC, since the ban was established, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6% — from 2,649 in 2009, to 1,521 in 2018.

When the burn ban is not in effect, residents in towns of less than 20,000 people are allowed to burn tree limbs with or without attached leaves, as long as the limbs are less than 6 inches in diameter and 8 feet in length (also referred to as brush). However, the open burning of loose leaves or leaf piles, and garbage, is always illegal at residential locations. Burning chemically treated wood, such as pressure-treated lumber and plywood, is also prohibited.

The DEC does provide exceptions for small campfires and cooking fires, ceremonial or celebratory fires (unless otherwise prohibited locally), for invasive species control (with DEC approval), and certain agricultural uses. Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.

For more information on the state’s open burn rules, visit the DEC website: on.ny.gov/434Nu7D.