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DEC cautions of fire risk with warmer temperatures and lower humidity

A weekend wildfire in Patterson, Putnam County
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
A weekend wildfire in Patterson, Putnam County

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation is warning of increased fire danger as much of the state sees warmer temperatures and lower humidity.

The DEC said the biggest cause of spring wildfires is open burning of debris. Forest Ranger Lieutenant Scott Jackson said current weather conditions can cause wildfires to spread quickly as the sun dries out grass and leaves.

"The dead grass and leaves are readily available to burn especially when we have drier conditions like we're having this week with temperatures that are a little above normal and relative humidity is below normal," Jackson said. "We're expecting some winds this week which will help any fires that start to spread to spread a little quicker and make it a little more challenging for us to control."

If a wildfire does spread, Jackson said it can take a lot of resources to put out.

The annual statewide ban on residential brush burning is in effect through May 14. People who violate the ban can be subject to legal consequences including a minimum $500 fine for a first offense. There are some exceptions to the ban for backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length as well as for small cooking fires.

An updated fire danger map can be found on the DEC's website.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.