It’s Brush Fire Season!
By Steve Mangione
April 3, 2024

Spring is in the air – and that means it’s brush fire season, cautions Golden’s Bridge Fire Chief Albert Melillo.

The lack of snowfall over the winter, last fall’s dried leaves and other brush debris blanketing the ground, minimal green vegetation, and springtime’s warmer temperatures and often gusty wind conditions all add up to the perfect storm for brush fires, says Chief Melillo.

“Spring is one of the most dangerous – if not the most dangerous – times of the year for brush fires in the Northeast, especially in communities with wooded landscapes, like Lewisboro, Somers, North Salem, Croton Falls, Pound Ridge and other surrounding areas,” added the Golden’s Bridge Fire Chief.

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 the sun heats up dried grass, leaves and other brush from the previous year’s autumn season and serve as fuel for brush fires. “Think of it as kindling,” says Chief Melillo.

When combined with other elements, such as wind currents, lightning, and the absence of green vegetation, brush fires can easily ignite and spread quickly. They can also start as a result of human carelessness. So, think twice before you toss a lit cigarette from your vehicle window, and use extra care when you’re filling your lawn mower or weed trimmer with gasoline – and even when you are cooking on your charcoal and gas barbecue grill. It just takes a single spark to cause a brush fire.

Tips on how to minimize and prevent the occurrence of brush fires can be found on the websites of the New York State Department of Environmental Protection and the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission. Among other tips, they recommend clearing leaves and debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks; removing dead vegetation from under decks, and to also avoid accumulating debris and combustible materials in enclosed areas below decks and patios.

Vigilance and caution are the best defense against brush fires – complying with open burn laws, and immediately calling 911 to report smoke or fire along a roadside or in the brush of a wooded area. Timely response could mean the difference between containing – and ultimately extinguishing – a brush fire, or the fire possibly spreading and becoming a threat to human life, homes, property, natural resources, and wildlife.

Chief Melillo also reminds residents that burning leaves and debris in your backyard is not only dangerous, but it’s also illegal. New York enforces an annual statewide springtime residential “burn ban” to help reduce the risk of brush fires and wildfires, and to protect lives and property during heightened conditions for these fire events. The DEC’s 2024 seasonal burn ban, part of the open burning regulations established by the state in 2009, is in effect until May 14. Burning leaves and garbage is prohibited year-round in New York State, including Westchester County.

The Golden’s Bridge Fire Department has already responded to multiple brush fires this month, although they were ignited by burning power lines that were toppled by gusty winds. Golden’s Bridge Firefighters participate in annual training drills to sharpen their skills in various methods utilized to contain and extinguish brush fires.

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