Brush fires keep volunteer firemen on the run
Area volunteers responded to pair of brush fires this week, extinguishing the blazes before they could cause significant damage.
Firefighters from Arkville and Fleischmanns quickly put a brush fire that broke out around 1 p.m. Monday off Kleis Road in the Town of Middletown.
The volunteers used water from pumper trucks and also utilized brooms and shovels to keep the fire in check. The blaze was extinguished less than a half-hour after fire departments arrived at the scene.
On Sunday, Firefighters from Roxbury, Fleischmanns, Grand Gorge, Arkville, Pine, Hill and Middletown Hardenburgh battled a brush fire on Sunday near Redkill Road in the Town of Roxbury. The quick response kept the fire from spreading. It did come to within about 20 feet of a house.
The recent series of wildfires fires in the area has occurred despite a statewide ban on residential brush burning that remains in place through May 14 in towns of fewer than 20,000 residents. The burning ban went into effect on March 16.
Bans are working
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) statistics show that the burning of debris is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state. Warming temperatures cause grasses and leaves to dry out, making it easy for an errant ember or another fire source to result in wildfires that can easily spread. Winds and the lack of green vegetation also contribute to conditions that are favorable for fires to quickly engulf large areas of terrain.
The state adopted tougher restrictions on open burning in 2009 in an effort to help prevent wildfires and reduce pollution emissions. The updated regulations allow residential brush fires in towns during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring months — the period during which most wildfires occur.
The guidelines allow campfires using charcoal or untreated wood. The DEC warns that such fires should not be left unattended and must be extinguished after use. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited at any time during the year.
Since the enactment of these more restrictive regulations, fire department data for 2010-2013, showed a 56 percent reduction in wildfires during the burn ban period for these years in comparison to the previous five years. Overall, 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.
Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park, are designated “fire towns” and open burning is prohibited year-round in these municipalities unless an individual or group has a written permit from DEC. These towns include Andes, Hardenburgh, Middletown and Shandaken.
“Reducing fire risks is critical to protecting lives and natural resources, and preventing damage to homes due to wildfires,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “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.”