Residential brush burning ban starts March 16

Staff Reports

Spring Burn Ban Reduces Wildfire Risks, Protects Lives and Property

Open burning of debris is the single-largest cause of spring wildfires in New York. When temperatures warm and the past fall's debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily, further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation. The statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning will begin March 16 and run through May 14.

FINGER LAKES -- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC)  annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning will begin March 16 and run through May 14. Since 2009, DEC has enforced the annual brush burning ban to prevent wildfires and protect communities during heightened conditions for wildfires each spring. 

Open burning of debris is the single-largest cause of spring wildfires in New York. Even though some areas of the state remain blanketed in snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise. When temperatures warm and the past fall's debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily, further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.

Each year, local volunteer fire departments all too often have to leave their jobs and families to respond to wildfires caused by illegal debris fires. In addition, DEC Forest Rangers extinguish dozens of wildfires that burn hundreds of acres. DEC will post the Fire Danger Map for the 2022 fire season on DEC's website once there is a moderate risk anywhere in New York. 

New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires occur.

  • Backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed.
  • Small cooking fires are allowed. 
  • Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood can be burned.
  • Never leave these fires unattended, and extinguish them completely.
  • Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round.

For more information about fire safety and prevention, go to DEC's FIREWISE New York website.

Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack and Catskill parks, are designated "fire towns." Open burning is prohibited year-round in these municipalities unless an individual or group has a permit from DEC. To find out whether a municipality is a designated fire town or to obtain a permit, contact the appropriate DEC regional office. A list of regional offices is available on DEC's website. 

Forest Rangers, DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs), and local authorities enforce the burn ban. Violators of the State's open burning regulation are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations, call 1-833-RANGERS, or report online on DEC's website.