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Firefighters prevent forest fire in Elizabethtown

— A brush fire nearly escalated to a forest fire on Brainard’s Forge Road Friday, April 6.

At about 2:15 p.m., Jason Sherman noticed a small grass fire at the front of his property at 339 Brainard’s Forge Road. Within minutes, Sherman said the fire spread to a big brush pile in the yard near the tree line.

“It grew by the seconds and within a minute it jumped to the trees,” Sherman said.

Elizabethtown Volunteer Fire Department Second Assistant Fire Chief B.J. Wright said firefighters from the Lewis Volunteer Fire Department joined his crew at the scene at about 2:25 p.m. and within a few minutes had extinguished the flames.

A Red Flag Warning was issued for all of Essex County on April 6 at 12:46 p.m. by the National Weather Service and remained in effect until 8 p.m.

Elizabethtown Fire Investigator Jack Hanby said during a Red Flag Warning residents should use extreme caution and should not burn brush or anything else due to the high winds. Any fires that occur are warned to burn intensely and may be difficult to contain according the weather advisory.

A statewide burn ban is effect through May 14, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The lack of green vegetation, abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves, warm temperatures and wind make spring a high-risk season for wildfires. Debris burning accounted for about 36 percent of wildfires between 1985 and 2009, making it the largest single cause of wildfires in New York state. Forty-six percent of wildfires in the state happen between March 16 and May 14.

In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce air pollutants and prevent wildfires. The burn ban regulation allows brush burning for most of the year in towns smaller than 20,000 residents, but it prohibits open burning in early spring when most wildfires typically occur. The state regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and in all places.

Some towns are designated “fire towns” primarily in and around the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park. Open burning is prohibited at all times in these municipalities without a written permit from DEC. To find out whether a town is a designated "fire town" or to obtain a permit, parties should contact a DEC regional office.

Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online on the DEC's website.

Find more information and frequently asked questions at dec.ny.gov.

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