April 12, 2013


Firefighters underscore burn ban

DEC rule intended to prevent brush fires in effect until May 14

FirefightersBob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer firefighter Jay Riley attempts to stop the flames at a hay field fire in July on Meade Road in East Homer. The fire burned several acres of cut hay.

Staff Reporter

The Cortland Fire Department is reminding city and county residents that an open burning ban on tree limbs and other brush is in place until May 14 to reduce the risk of wildfires. It began on March 16.
A regulation instituted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in October 2009, as part of a statewide ban on burning trash, allowed a provision for populations under 20,000 to burn fallen branches, or brush, openly, but not during this period.
Assistant Fire Chief William Knickerbocker said the regulation has been very effective.
“We’ve seen brush fires wane considerably,” he said.
While small, recreational fires in the city are usually all the department has to deal with as far as open burning, he said, out in the more rural areas of the county is where trash and brush burning can yield incendiary results.
A lack of snow and the dry conditions of this particular time of year led to a rash of brush fires around Groton in March and April last year.
Knickerbocker, who also directs the city’s Code Enforcement office, said preventing a similar outbreak could be done by following an easy instruction.
“Be smart and don’t burn. It’s simple,” he said.
Burning trash is prohibited statewide, whether it is in a trash can or within wood stoves, fireplaces and wood boilers outside.
Dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, and carbon monoxide are released if trash is burned, rather than recycled, according to the DEC.
Also, Knickerbocker added, it really smells.
Campfires are allowed under current state regulations if they are less than 3 feet high and 4 feet in length, width or diameter, and are always attended and fully extinguished.
Only charcoal or clean, untreated and unpainted wood is permitted to be burned, according to the DEC website.
Fires are permissible to control invasive plant and insect species, or on-site agricultural waste such as brush or wood, the DEC says, but again, not until May 14.
After then, open burning of tree limbs and attached leaves (not leaf piles, which must be composted) will be allowed once again, but only if they are less than 6 diametric inches and 8 feet long.
Fires are not permitted within 50 feet of any structure, unless the pile size is 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height, in which case it can be within 25 feet, according to the DEC.
Exceptions are made by the DEC if the fires are kept in approved containers, such as barbecue pits.


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