Outdoor fire weather concerns pick up

The National Weather Service (NWS) has posted a Special Weather Statement in regard to outdoor conditions creating potential for brush fires in Allegany, Livingston and Monroe counties east.

“Dry conditions again today will continue to dry out fine fuels, such as leaf litter and grass,” it reports. “This will combine with southerly wind gusts of 30 to 35 mph and afternoon relative values of 25 to 30 percent to elevate fire weather concerns.”

It warns that “if any fires were to start … the dry windy weather would increase the risk of wildfire spread …. making it difficult to contain.”

In the meantime, over the border in Potter and McKean counties, the NWS at State College, has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook which advises that frost freeze conditions early this morning, which could damage unprotected vegetation, may re-occur Thursday and Friday mornings.

As we reported yesterday, a New York statewide ban on outdoor burning, with a few exceptions, is in effect through Tuesday, May 14.

The action is taken every spring due to higher winds, combined with dry materials, making outdoor combustion more likely.

The department notes that open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires in New York State, adding that since the spring burn ban was implemented in 2009, the number of wildfires has decreased by more than 40 percent.

Despite the decrease, fire departments, including those in Allegany and surrounding counties, spend hours each year extinguishing runaway outdoor fires which can consume hundreds and thousands of acres, along with homes and other personal property.

Forest fires in Canada and the Western United States last year caused significant air quality issues throughout New York State.

Open burning is prohibited in NYS, with some exceptions, including:
— Camp fires or any other outdoor fires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter.
— Small cooking fires.
— Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires. Disposal of flags or religious items in a small-sized fire is allowed, if it is not otherwise prohibited by law or regulation.
— Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned.
— Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.

Some local ordinances also are in effect all year around.

Violators of the state ban are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, according to NYSDEC, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.

More information and additional requirements and exceptions are available at https://tinyurl.com/NYS-Burn-Ban.