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DEC commish: Brush burning prohibited through May

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation reminded New Yorkers who reside in smaller communities that all residential brush burning is prohibited during the state's historically high fire risk period beginning this week and continuing through May 14.

Joe Martens is commissioner of DEC. He says that since the open burning regulation was adopted two years ago, the state has seen fewer fires reported during the high-risk spring season.

"It's our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our children, families and our natural environment, therefore, we remind all New Yorker's that this is a time of risk and the statewide ban is now in effect through mid-May," Martens said.

In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires.

While the new regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with a population of less than 20,000, it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring when the bulk of New York's wildfires typically occur. The new regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places.

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.

Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York. 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.

Additionally, from 2000 to 2007, New York's fire departments responded to an average of 2,600 wildfires each year during the period of March 14 through May 16.

DEC Forest Ranger data for 2010 indicated a 33 percent reduction in wildfires caused by debris burning during the burn ban period last year when compared to the past 10 years, including weather considerations. Based on information provided by statewide fire departments, 70 percent of the smaller communities across the state had a reduction from overall number of wildfires.

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