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DEC reminder: No brush burning until after May 14 in towns with less than 20,000 population

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation is reminding residents that burning brush and yard waste is prohibited in the state until after May 14.

The prohibition, which includes towns with a population of less than 20,000, is due to increased fire risk typical during the spring months.

Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state. As temperatures get warmer and grasses and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily. These fires can be further fueled by winds and the 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. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round.

Fire department data for 2010-2013, 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-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) or report online at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/67751.html.

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