Conditions raise brush fire risk in Hudson Valley

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HUDSON VALLEY – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)  annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning began on March 16 and runs through May 14. Current weather conditions have raised the risk of brush fires to “Moderate” for the next few days in the Hudson Valley.

The Fairview Fire District in the Town of Poughkeepsie has issued an advisory of the elevated risk of brush fires for the next few days.  “Due to high wind gusts and low relative humidity throughout the region we are at an ELEVATED RISK OF FIRE SPREAD today, most likely continuing into tomorrow,” the department spokesperson noted on social media, adding “Disposal of lit cigarettes, matches, and other ignition sources today and tomorrow could potentially cause a fire.”

“The start of spring in New York comes with an increased risk of wildfires,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Starting March 16 and ending May 14, New York State prohibits residential brush burning to protect our communities and our natural resources.”

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. Each year, DEC Forest Rangers extinguish dozens of wildfires that burn hundreds of acres. In addition, local fire departments, many of which are staffed by volunteers, all too often have to leave their jobs and families to respond to wildfires caused by illegal debris fires. DEC will post the Fire Danger Map for the 2022 fire season on DEC’s website once there is a moderate risk anywhere in New York.

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.

Backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed. Small cooking fires are allowed. Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood can be burned.

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. To report environmental law violations, call 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267) or report online on DEC’s website. For search and rescue, reporting a wildfire or illegal activity on state lands and easements, call 1-833-NYS-RANGERS (1-833-697-7264).