DEC issues fireworks warning ahead of July 4, amid several burning wildfires

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Lighting a firework with a match

A woman holds a burning matchstick and fireworks. (Thomas Lohnes / Getty)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Ahead of Independence Day, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a fire danger warning on Wednesday morning. This follows days of storms capping off an extended dry period while adding another layer to the widespread fireworks problem in the area.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says that, in spite of sometimes torrential rain, enduring dry conditions during Independence Day fireworks displays will represent an increased fire hazard over the holiday weekend.

“The majority of lands across the state remain very dry,” Seggos says. “Remember that, in addition to being dangerous and in some cases illegal, fireworks can start wildfires.”

There are three active wildfires in New York on Wednesday: one in St. Lawrence County, another in Herkimer County, and the third in Tompkins County. These fires are burning as much as 11 acres of land, requiring a pump operation that uses huge volumes of water.

At 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, Herkimer emergency services got help from forest rangers to deal with a backcountry wildfire in the cliffs and rocks of the Panther Mountain overlook. Four rangers assisted the Old Forge Fire Department with the one-acre smoldering fire, about half a mile from a private road.

Over the following three days, rangers and state police dropped water from helicopters and set up a half-mile water pump up 600 vertical feet to keeping dousing the fire. The fire is now considered in patrol status.

Most of the state is still at moderate risk for fire. Campfires are among the top five causes of wildfires, and fireworks are in the top 12. The National Safety Council says fireworks are responsible for over 18,000 fires in the U.S.

For a safe Fourth of July holiday, follow firework safety guidelines:

  • Do not use illegal fireworks
  • Soak spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby in case you need to extinguish a fire or a firework

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