Fire official: ‘perfect storm’ for brush fires

Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 4:30 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Fire officials say it’s the perfect storm: warmer temperatures; a bit of wind, and dry conditions. The north country is ripe for a small brush fire to get out of control. There is a statewide open burn ban in effect until mid-May.

St. Lawrence County has seen its fair share of brush fires in the past two months - 32 in March and 7 in April so far.

“A lot of our counties are made up of fire departments that have volunteers - volunteers that have a full-time family, full-time jobs, and they’re also full-time firemen for the communities,” said Matthew Denner, St. Lawrence County Emergency Services director.

That volunteer work often isn’t necessary if you follow the DEC’s open burning ban, which started March 16.

“If you look at the drought monitor for our area right now, we’re in dry conditions. We’ve had low precipitation for the spring, we haven’t had a lot of snow. We’re almost in a perfect storm type situation for wildland fires,” said North Pole Fire Department Captain Scott Alexander.

The weather is getting warmer, which means camping season is right around the corner. You may be wondering if you can build a campfire. The short answer is yes, but there are some rules you’ll have to follow.

Campfires must be small, contained, and be burned with untreated wood or charcoal. That means no leaves or twigs from the yard.

“Everybody loves to get outside, everybody loves to clean their yard. Just use caution, put the brush aside and wait for a safe time,” said Denner.

The state ban goes through May 14. Counties can extend it on their own if they see the need.

“Every week we look and see how many fires we’ve had, what the risks are, the resources that are available. Then we determined if we extend it as a county past the New York state ban,” said Denner.

But for now, if you have a burning desire, don’t.

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