New York's burn ban is in effect. Here's what you need to know

As cozy as a fire can be, New York's annual burn ban suggests limiting the size of the fire to avoid starting a larger wildfire.
As cozy as a fire can be, New York's annual burn ban suggests limiting the size of the fire to avoid starting a larger wildfire.

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation last week issued a burn ban, which will run from March 16 to May 15.

Forest Rangers, state Environmental Conservation police officers and local authorities enforce the ban.

Violators are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense, according to materials from the department.

Here's what you need to know:

Why now?

According to a release issued by the department last week, the early spring is typically seen as a peak time for wildfires to occur.

"Even though some areas of the state remain blanketed in snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions to arise," the release noted, adding that burning debris outside is "the single-largest cause of spring wildfires in New York State."

When was the ban first issued?

While wildfires have been reported in New York as early as 1891, according to a table from the department, the ban itself was first put into effect in 2009, which reportedly had 150 wildfires burning 1,313 acres.

According to state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, that ban has proven effective.

"Since 2009, New York's burn ban has reduced the number of wildfires in our communities and we're looking forward to continuing that trend in 2022," he said.

What is allowed?

According to the department, fires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed. This can include backyard fire pits or small campfires, provided charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood is used and not left unattended.

Which areas are high risk?

Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack and Catskill parks, are called "fire towns," which means open burning is prohibited year-round. Elsewhere, regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but people may not start these fires during the burn ban.

What causes wildfires?

Aside from burning debris, a number of other factors can contribute to wildfires.

According to a table tracking wildfire occurrences from 1993 to 2017 from the New York Forest Rangers, 95 percent of wildfires are caused by humans (with lightning strikes responsible for 5 percent). According to the table, 33 percent of those incidences come from burning debris. Incendiary fires and campfires each account for 32 percent of wildfires.

This article originally appeared on MPNnow: New York State Burn Ban in effect to prevent wildfires