To reduce the risk to wildlife, lives and property, brush burning in small towns across the state is prohibited through May 14.
Last week, a press release from the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation reminded state residents that brush burning in towns with less than 20,000 residents is prohibited from March 16 through May 14.
During the rest of the year, residents in towns with less than 20,000 residents can burn brush, depending on local town laws. The burning of garbage or leaves is prohibited by the state DEC year-round.
"Reducing fire risks is critical to protecting lives and natural resources, and preventing damage to homes due to wildfires," said Joe Martens, DEC commissioner. "Prohibiting residential burning during the high-risk spring fire season significantly decreases the number of fires. As the weather turns warmer, we urge residents to abide by the ban and make safety a priority."
According to Sally Carlson, town of North Harmony supervisor, the state regulation makes sense.
"It's an important law. We've had some (brush fires) that have moved toward buildings - they can cause some serious fire events," she said.
Carlson also said that North Harmony follows all state regulations regarding brush fires.
"When they allow it, we allow it," Carlson said.
Charles Loveless, village of Panama mayor, said the village rarely has issues with brush burning. As a Panama fire department volunteer, however, Loveless said that this is the time of year when such fires mainly occur.
"Usually during this time of the year, fire departments get calls about grass fires. It doesn't take long for something to get out of control with the wind and dry grass," he said.
Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state. As temperatures get warmer and grass and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily. These fires can be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.
New York adopted tougher restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce pollution emissions. The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns during most of the year but prohibit such burning in spring months when most wildfires occur.
Campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed but should not be left unattended and must be extinguished after use.
On Thursday, a Lakewood resident was charged with open burning after a fire he started to burn trash accidentally spread and burned down his garage.
In accordance with federal law, the city of Jamestown does not allow brush burning at any point during the year. The BPU Yard Waste Site, located at 1001 Monroe St., is available for the disposal of brush by city residents.
Fire department data for 2010 through 2013 showed a 56 percent reduction in wildfires during the burn ban period for these years as compared to the previous five years. In addition, 80 percent of all communities across New York had a reduction in the number of fires as compared to the previous 10 years.
Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations, call 1-800-847-7332 or report online at dec.ny.gov/regulatio ns/67751.html.