(WSYR-TV/NEWS10) — On Tuesday, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds New Yorkers of the return of the annual statewide ban that prohibits residential brush burning. The prohibition will last from March 16 through May 14.

“The start of spring in New York comes with an increased risk of wildfires,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Since 2009, New York’s burn ban has reduced the number of wildfires in our communities.”

According to the DEC, open burning debris is the number one cause of spring wildfires in New York. As temperatures begin to warm, debris from last fall dries out and can cause wildfires that spread easily, said the DEC. In addition, these wildfires can burn hundreds of acres and can also distract local firefighters from other emergencies.

the Cohoes Fire Department is no stranger to responding to brush fire calls. Cohoes Fire Chief Joseph Fahd says the ban has significantly reduced the number of wildfires in the city. “It cuts down our workload and helps prevent some of these grass and brush fires that we have to go in and get. Last year, we probably had maybe two…and before the ban we would be fighting everyday grass fires.”

While open burning is restricted, residents of New York can still have backyard fire pits or campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter, as well as small cooking fires. The DEC also reminds residents that these fires should only burn charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood, and fires should never be left unattended and extinguished.

“If you want to have a bonfire, we ask for you to get a permit from us so we know what’s going on. You have to have a hose line by it, you can’t leave it unattended and before you leave for the night, it has to be completely out,” said Chief Fahd.

Failure to follow the ban can result in criminal or civil enforcement, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. The burn ban is enforced by forest rangers, the DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers, and local authorities. To report environmental law violations, you can call 1-833-RANGERS or visit dec.ny.gov.