The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

May 15, 2014

In Our Opinion: Take steps to prevent brush fires

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The Daily Star

---- — The state’s annual late winter-early spring burn ban ended today, but that doesn’t mean the threat of fire is suddenly gone.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation prohibits burning brush and untreated, unpainted wood from mid-March to mid-May each year, when the threat of spreading brush fires is greatest.

The burning of treated wood, leaves and household trash is prohibited year-round.

This time of year is when open burning generally picks up. People are beginning to spend time outside with campfires and fire pits, and brush piles have been growing as people clean up yard debris from the winter storms.

We encourage those who choose to do so to take every precaution to prevent the risk of spreading fire.

First check with your town or village to see if open burning is allowed or if a permit is needed.

Environmental Conservation Law requires those who wish to burn in a “fire town” to receive a permit from the DEC. A fire town is classified as any town totally or partially within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill parks. The Delaware County towns of Andes, Colchester, Hancock and Middletown are fire towns.

Next make sure steps are taken to prevent the spread of the fire. The DEC offers the following guidelines to minimize the risk of wildfire:

• never leave a fire unattended, and make sure a fire is completely out before leaving the site.

• do not build a fire on windy days.

• always have water and a rake or shovel on hand.

• keep your fire small enough so you can control it; and

• remove all burnable materials at least 10 feet away from a fire.

The state restricts open burning to clean, unpainted and uncoated wood, charcoal, and limbs and branches less than 6 inches in diameter and 8 feet in length.

Since the state began regulating open burning in 2009, the number of wildfires have decreased, according to the DEC.

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, the DEC said. From 2000 to 2007, fire departments across the state responded to an average of 2,600 wildfires each year between March 14 through May 16, and one year after passage of the regulation, data indicated a 33 percent reduction in wildfires caused by debris burning during the burn ban period.

For more information on open burning regulations, visit www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/32064.htm.

We were lucky this year that the cool, wet season limited the number of brush fires local fire crews needed to extinguish during the ban period. If people take proper precautions, that number can continue to be low.