By Michael Weiner
Did you know that open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York State?
Spring is when the conditions are the most dangerous for the ignition of forest fires and these types of fires are particularly a big concern this time of year for our local volunteer fire departments. In fact, there have been a number of brush fires in the Town of Fallsburg already this week.
To address this problem, there’s been a statewide ban of open burning instituted that started on March 16 and ends May 14.
Several factors enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly at this time, including the lack of green vegetation, abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves, warm temperatures and wind.
Wildfires are extremely dangerous.
Once started, they rapidly spread and can cause great damage, including burning large tracts of land, barns, garages and houses that are adjacent to the fire area.
This ban also prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places. The ban makes it illegal to use a burn barrel or open pits as a means for incinerating trash. The burning of leaves is also banned in New York State.
Agricultural burns are allowed and there are certain circumstances when controlled burns, with an issued permit, are permissible However, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has cancelled any burn permits this year for such activity between March 15th and October 10th.
In 2009, the DEC issued tough new regulations that forbid open burning all New York communities to try to bring down the number of forest fires across the state and to reduce the amounts of harmful air pollutants that are released in the open burning of garbage.
In areas like the Town of Fallsburg with populations under 20,000, residential brush burning is permitted for the rest of the year. But between March 16 and May 14, the ban that covers the rest of the state year round also applies to the Town of Fallsburg and other rural towns.
According to J.W. Halchak, our Sullivan County Deputy Fire Coordinator for the Town of Fallsburg, this ban should be taken very seriously:
“Because forest fires are very dangerous, the burn ban should be taken very seriously by local residents. Our volunteers face great hazard when called out to these destructive blazes.”
In terms of your health, burning garbage is unhealthy and dangerous. When you burn garbage, it moves the toxins from the garbage into your body through the air or in food. Even ashes can be toxic. It’s better not to burn any time of the year! Here are some alternatives to open burning:
* Reduce waste
* Use garbage services!
* Shred paper
According to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, since the open burning regulation passed in 2009, there have been much fewer number of wildfires reported in New York State this time of year.
“I urge everyone to be cautious with the risk of wildfires and remind all New Yorkers that the statewide ban is in effect through mid-May,” said Martens.
The Town Board recognizes the dangers of forest fires and the danger they pose to our volunteer first responders and the property and life of our residents. We all urge you to respect this ban on open burning this spring.