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March 28, 2011

Residential Brush Burning Prohibited During High-Risk Season March 16 - May 14

Oswego County Fire Coordinator Reminds Residents of State Ban on Open Burning -

Oswego County Fire Coordinator Donald Forbes reminds Oswego County residents that all residential grass and brush burning is prohibited during the historically high fire risk period between March 16 and May 14.

Forbes said that New York State's open burning regulation, which was passed in 2009, bans open burning from mid-March through mid-May. It also prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places.

"County fire departments responded to over 20 grass and brush fires in one day last year. That's time away from jobs, homes and families. People need to be aware of the danger and the consequences," said Forbes. "Grass, brush and woods fires can be very dangerous. Last year we lost a barn and heavily damaged a house in two separate fires as a result of open burning in Oswego County. People need to be more respectful of the power of fire. It can get out of control in a split second."

Forbes said several factors enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly during early spring, including the lack of green vegetation, abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves, warm temperatures and wind.

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said that since the open burning regulation passed in 2009, there have been fewer fires reported in New York State during early spring, the highest fire risk time. "It's our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our children, families and our natural environment," he said.

In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. While the new regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a population of less than 20,000, it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring when the bulk of New York's wildfires typically occur.

Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York State. Data from DEC's Forest Protection Division show that debris burning accounted for about 40 percent of wildfires in the state between 1986 and 2006 - more than twice the next most-cited source. In addition, from 2000 to 2007, New York's fire departments responded to an average of 2,600 wildfires each year during the period of March 14 through May 16.

DEC Forest Ranger data for 2010 indicated a 33 percent reduction in wildfires caused by debris burning during the burn ban period when compared to the previous 10 years, including weather considerations. In addition, based on information provided by statewide fire departments, 70 percent of the smaller communities across the state had a reduction from overall number of wildfires.

"Every year in Onondaga County, a large number of brush fires occur during early Spring before the greening up period," said Joseph W. Rinefierd, Fire Bureau Director with Onondaga County Department of Emergency Management. "During this higher risk time, please make sure you dispose of all smoking material properly and never leave barbecues, outside fireplaces or grills unattended. Let's prevent fires and practice fire safety, so our firefighters can spend more time with their families this Spring."

Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with the minimum fine of $375 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/67751.html.

A list of questions and answers on the open burning regulation is available at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.html on DEC's website.

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