An acre of Cole Hill forest burns, DEC issues fire-danger warning

BERNE — On Saturday, a wildland fire at the Cole Hill State Forest was put out by the Berne and East Berne volunteer fire departments, aided by three state forest rangers.

At 3:15 p.m., the Albany County Sheriff’s Office requested forest ranger assistance with the brush fire, according to a release from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. “Together, the responders suppressed the remaining hot spots,” the release said. “The fire was determined to be 0.8 acres in size and declared out by 7:15 p.m.”

On Tuesday, the DEC issued a fire-danger warning because of “abnormally dry conditions throughout most of eastern New York.”

Although the State's prohibition on residential brush burning ended in May, fire danger still exists since some parts of the state are 90 percent below normal rainfall levels, the DEC says.

The DEC updates its fire danger map and forecast during fire season on its website and on the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App also available on DEC’s website.

The majority of the state remains at moderate risk, which means outdoor fires can burn briskly and spread rapidly on windy days. Precipitation in eastern New York and western New England over the last 30 days ranged from 0.50 to 3.50 inches, which is 15 to 90 percent below normal.

Debris burning and campfires are among the top five causes of wildfires. While fireworks are not a significant cause of wildfires, they are a potential hazard. In most cases, fireworks are also illegal.

Burning brush

The DEC issued these fire-safety protocols for burning wood or brush:

— Never burn on a windy day;

— Check and obey all local laws and ordinances;

— Burn early in the morning when humidity is high and winds are low;

— Clear all flammable material for a distance of 10 to 15 feet around the fire;

— Keep piles to be burned small, adding small quantities of material as burning progresses;

— Always have a garden hose, shovel, water bucket, or other means to extinguish the fire close at hand; and

— When done, drown the fire with water, making sure all materials, embers, and coals are wet.

Camping

The DEC advises New Yorkers camping in the backcountry to:

— Use existing campfire rings where possible;

— Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Pile extra wood away from the fire;

— Clear the area around the ring of leaves, twigs, and other flammables materials;

— Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly; and

— Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath.

Prohibited

Burning trash is prohibited statewide in all cases. Incinerator rules prohibit burning household trash in wood stoves, fireplaces, and outdoor wood boilers.

Rather, the DEC recommends recycling all appropriate materials (such as newspaper, paper, glass and plastic) and composting organic kitchen and garden waste.

Burning leaves also is banned in New York State. The DEC encourages composting of leaves.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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