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Long Island

New York bans brush burning on Long Island, statewide over fire risk

State officials have declared a residential burn ban

State officials have declared a residential burn ban for Long Island and the state over concerns about an elevated risk of fire, such as this one in Dix Hills on Sunday, April 16, 2017. Investigators are still determining the cause of the blaze. Photo Credit: Joseph Cassano

State officials have declared a ban on residential brush burning on Long Island and across New York, noting the risk at this time of year for wildfires.

The ban is in effect through May 14, and comes as firefighters have responded recently to a number of brush fire reports across the state, according to a news release Monday from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office.

Several factors enhancing the fire risk are at play, said Benning DeLaMater, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. This is “the season you have the fuel — leaves and brush” from last year still on the ground, DeLaMater said.

On Sunday, firefighters spent an hour and a half battling a 1-acre blaze that started about noon on property near the Suburban Water Gardens nursery in Dix Hills. A Melville firefighter was hospitalized with a shoulder injury he received at the scene, authorities said, and investigators are still determining the cause of the fire.

The state’s annual springtime residential brush burning ban was initiated in 2009, and wildfires have dropped by 35 percent since then, DeLaMater said.

“Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State,” the DEC said last month in its announcement of this season’s ban. “When temperatures are warmer and the past fall’s debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.”

Exceptions to the ban include small campfires of a certain dimension and ceremonial bonfires, the governor’s release said, with burning of leaves and grass prohibited year-round.

Violators of the ban can face civil and criminal enforcement actions, including a minimum $500 fine for first offenders, according to the DEC.

In a special statement issued Monday for Long Island, the National Weather Service’s Upton office pointed to “the combination of warm temperatures, low daytime relative humidity, gusty winds and dry fuels” as leading to the threat of brush fires spreading in the afternoon.

On Monday, Long Island was in the “high” category of the DEC’s fire danger map, DeLaMater said, rising from “moderate” status over the weekend. “High” is the third of five categories, with the highest being “extreme.”

“From late March on through May is our fire season,” said Tim Morrin, weather service meteorologist and the Upton office’s fire weather team leader.

The governor’s release pointed to the expectation for above-average temperatures for the region though spring.

According to the Climate Prediction Center, there’s a 40 to 50 percent probability for April to have above-normal temperatures in the region that includes Long Island, with a 50 percent probability for above-normal temperatures in April through June.

So far those expectations are “really on track,” Morrin said, with temperatures at Long Island MacArthur Airport 4 degrees above normal so far this month.

April also has had 1.97 inches of precipitation, which is 0.44 of an inch below normal.

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