DEC issues fire danger warning as towns restrict water usage

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Fire opposing water

Fire and water. (Iván Tamás / Pixabay )

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a warning about the potential for abnormally dry conditions through most of eastern New York to cause fires. This as several localities asked residents to conserve water over the past week.

New York’s burn ban ended in May, but enduring dry conditions mean fire presents an ongoing threat.

“Over the last month, some parts of the state are 90% below normal rainfall levels,” says DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, who in a letter on Tuesday urged New Yorkers to stay safe when burning wood and brush.

“Severe drought conditions” have led several towns to enact water restrictions. As in Ballston, officials in Colonie, Glenville, and Niskayuna have put an alternating system in place. Irrigation is only allowed on alternating days, where even-numbered addresses can water only on even-number days, and the same for odds. Those towns also say outdoor watering must occur overnight or in early morning hours, when less water evaporates.

In Stillwater and Rotterdam, all outdoor water usage is prohibited. At the other end of the spectrum, North Greenbush simply asked residents—many already experiencing low water pressure—to reduce water usage on a voluntary basis.

According to the DEC’s fire danger map, most of the state is listed at moderate risk, meaning fires burn easily and spread fast, especially on windy days. Precipitation in eastern New York and western New England over the last 30 days ranged from .5 inches to 3.5 inches, about 15% to 90% below normal.

Remember that debris burning and campfires are among the top five causes of wildfires. Fireworks, while illegal in most cases and potentially hazardous, are not a significant cause of wildfires.

The DEC has put together a long list of fire safety guidelines to follow:

  • Never burn on a windy day
  • Know and follow local laws and ordinances
  • Recycle/compost leaves and household trash; burning either is illegal
  • Disposing of flags or religious items in small fires is allowed when not prohibited by specific regulations
  • Burn early in the morning when humidity is high and winds are low
  • Consider a small stove or grill for cooking instead of a campfire
  • Use existing campfire rings
  • Build fires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves
  • Clear a 10-foot circle of any material
  • Pile extra wood away from the fire
  • Keep burnable piles small and add small amounts as it burns
  • Campfires must be under 3-feet high and 4-feet around
  • Only use charcoal or untreated wood as fuel
  • Hold spent matches until they are cold
  • Never leave a campfire unattended
  • Keep a garden hose, shovel, water bucket, or another extinguisher close by
  • Check beneath rocks for burning embers or coals that can smolder and break out
  • Drown the fire with water, making sure everything in the campfire is wet
  • Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again

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