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Opinion

April 15, 2013

In Our Opinion: Take steps to prevent wildfires

The grass is starting to turn green. Daffodils and crocuses are emerging. Buds can be seen on trees.

Spring is here. It’s time to get out in the yard and start cleaning up winter’s debris.

But one thing you don’t want to do right now is burn those brush and leaf piles. A statewide burn ban is still in effect for another month.

The ban, which was enacted in 2009, went into effect in mid-March and is scheduled to end May 14, a time period of historically high fire risk. 

It seems to be working. There has been a 35 percent decline in the number of forest fires since the ban went into effect, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Open burning is the largest cause of wildfires in New York, according to the release. Data from DEC’s Division of Forest Protection show that debris burning accounted for about 36 percent of wildfires in the state between 1985 and 2009. From 2000 to 2009, New York’s fire departments responded to an average of 2,300 wildfires each year from March 14 through May 16 — or about 46 percent of all wildfires for the year. 

Don’t let the recent rain around here fool you. It’s not OK to burn. A couple of days of dry weather and wind can lead us right back into dangerous conditions. Numerous brush fires have been reported over the last few weeks.

If you do get caught burning, you will be charged. Violators of the open burning laws are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with the minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.

A Hamden man is facing charges of negligently starting a forest fire after a wood debris fire spread to a nearby forest.

And when the ban is over, be smart about when — and what — you burn. A day right after a soaking rain makes more sense than after a week with no rain.

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