Saturday, November 18, 2017


“County Officials Urge Residents to Continue to Use Caution with Open Burning and Fireworks”
Southern Tier Counties Experiencing Moderate Drought Conditions

Elmira- County officials and the Directors of Fire and Emergency Management in Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties are strongly urging residents to use extreme caution when having any open burning or using permitted sparklers and novelty items.

"Our region is seeing moderate drought conditions with some areas experiencing only 30% of average annual rainfall for the year. Considering that there is no significant rain forecasted in the near future, this dry weather pattern makes any open burning more hazardous,” said Mark Cicora, Chemung County Emergency Management Director.  “While we understand that residents, campers, and vacationers like to enjoy a campfire, we ask that you always follow the laws and take extra precautions to ensure a fire does not get out of control,” added Cicora.

New York’s open burning law makes it illegal at any time of the year to use a burn barrel or open pits as a means for incinerating trash. The burning of leaves is also banned in New York State.

The New York State regulation prohibits all open burning except for the following:
   • Campfires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter
      are allowed.
   • Small cooking fires are allowed.
   • Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.
   • Only charcoal or clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned.
   • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires are allowed.

Fireworks, sky lanterns, and sparklers provide an even larger risk as they are not as easily contained. Always ensure they are used in a clear, open area, away from buildings, vehicles and areas of dried vegetation. Watch for flying sparks and douse immediately.

Tim Marshall, Steuben County Director of Emergency Management said, “Just this weekend a sky lantern damaged a dock on Keuka Lake when it landed on the dock while still on fire. The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control considers sky lanterns as recreational fires which require constant supervision. Therefore they would need to be anchored or tethered when lit or they would present a code violation.”

Sky lanterns are made of oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame and contain a small candle or fuel cell of waxy flammable material surrounded by a metal ring. When lit, the flame heats the inside of the lantern causing it to rise into the air. Sky lanterns are known to travel significant distances via air current and can pose a serious fire and safety hazard because the lanterns can unintentionally spark a fire.

When having a fire or using approved sparklers additional precautions include:
   • Keep an approved fire extinguisher nearby and a bucket of water or garden
      hose handy.
   • Only purchase sparklers and novelty devices from a NY State registered
      retailer and follow the directions located on the packaging.
   • Douse malfunctioning and spent devices and open fires with plenty of water.
   • A responsible adult should supervise all activities. Never allow young
      children to light sparklers.

Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.  Similar criminal penalties exist for persons in violation of the misuse of fireworks.

Should an individual be found to be the cause of an uncontrolled wildfire, that individual may be held responsible for extinguishment costs and the loss of property.

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