ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Warm weather comes with drawbacks, especially in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and anywhere else with a lot of dense woodlands. This week, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is putting out a reminder to all those in state forests: No blazes in the brush.
A statewide ban prohibiting brush burning started on March 16, and will last through Sunday, May 14. Temperatures climbing up towards the 70s this week means an increased risk of fires breaking out, and forecast highs into the 80s suggest even more risk to come.
The DEC reports that open burning of debris causes most spring wildfires in the state, often caused by debris from the previous fall being left out in dry conditions. These conditions are primed in early spring, when a lack of green vegetation means not as many environmental factors to cushion the risk.
“With all the dead grass and leaves, the tree leaves aren’t out yet and the green grass hasn’t started growing,” said Forest Ranger Lieutenant Scott Jackson. “The sunlight is hitting the ground directly, and the dead grass and leaves are readily available to burn, especially when we’re having drier conditions like we’re having this week.”
The DEC operates and updates a fire map, reporting risk levels in different parts of the state. As of Tuesday, parts of New York from Long Island up to the Hudson Valley and Albany Pine Bush are considered to be at “high” risk. The rest of the state, including the Adirondack Park, was listed as “moderate.”
If you’re camping, there are exceptions. Campfires and fire pits are allowed within three feet in height and four feet in length or diameter. Cooking fires are also permitted. In all cases, only charcoal or dry, untreated and unpainted wood can be burned. Fires should always be extinguished when no longer in use.
In the Adirondacks and Catskills, some “fire towns” prohibit burning throughout the entire year, unless the burner has a specific type of permit. The best way to learn more about your local burn laws is to reach out to your nearest DEC office and find out what you need to do to keep those pristine trees from falling to tragedy.