NEW YORK (WWTI) — To prevent pollution and wildfires, a statewide burn ban will begin next week.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will enforce an annual spring burn ban starting March 16 and continue through May 14, 2021. According to the DEC, the annual ban has decreased spring wildfires by nearly 43% percent since 2009.

The DEC reported that the risk for wildfires in the spring season is heightened due to the rapid snowmelt and drying of vegetation. Additionally, as temperatures rise throughout the spring, last year’s autumn vegetation can easily spread wildfires, even if at first contained.

Forest rangers, environmental conservation police officers from the DEC, and local authorities will be enforcing the burn ban.

Violators of the state’s open burning regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.

To report environmental law violations, such as burning during the ban, call (800) 847-7332, or report online on DEC’s website.