WESTCHESTER, N.Y. - As nature awakens from its winter slumber, spring may not be the only thing in the air in the weeks ahead.
This is also the season for heightened risk of brush fires.
From March 16 to May 14, New York will institute a statewide “burn ban.” The annual springtime program is enforced to help reduce the risk of wildfires and protect lives and property. The seasonal burn ban is part of the open burning regulations established by the state in 2009.
Goldens Bridge Fire Chief Albert Melillo urged residents to call emergency services if they see smoke or fire along a roadside or in the brush of a wooded area.
“At this time of year, flicking a lit cigarette from a car window could have deadly consequences if it creates a spark on dry brush,” Melillo said. “Vigilance is our best defense in protecting our families, property and community, as well as natural resources and wildlife.”
Melillo said that gaining an understanding of the science helps to explain how the potential for brush and other wildfires increases dramatically during springtime.
“According to conservation experts, warming temperatures and dried grass, leaves, shrubs, and bushes from the previous year’s fall season— which serve as a brush fire’s fuel—react with oxygen and release heat,” the fire chief said. “When combined with other elements like wind currents, and the absence of green vegetation, brush fires can easily start and spread quickly.”
The state’s open burning restrictions were also designed to help reduce air pollution by eliminating harmful particulates—the microscopic solids and liquid droplets that cause serious health problems when inhaled—that are unleashed during open burning.
While open burning of leaves, brush, household garbage and other debris is prohibited in most counties in the state, including Westchester, the DEC website lists a handful of open burn exceptions—among other things, maple sugar processing, a seasonal treat—for which only charcoal and dry, clean, non-chemically treated, and unpainted wood can be used. Visit the DEC website for a complete list of the open burn exceptions.
Melillo said that whenever there is a moderate risk for brush fires and wildfires anywhere in the state, the DEC posts these locations on its website on the “Fire Danger Map” for the 2022 fire season. The website also has a list of the agency’s regional offices and additional information about open burning restrictions.