Schenectady County

Brush fires prompt bans on burning

Conditions remain ripe for the outbreak of brush fires, prompting more counties in the Capital Regio
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Conditions remain ripe for the outbreak of brush fires, prompting more counties in the Capital Region to issue bans on outdoor burning.

The state Office of Fire Prevention and Control has sent notices to fire coordinators in the area, asking them to evaluate conditions in their counties and determine whether to issue bans.

On Monday, Schenectady and Albany counties issued states of emergencies to bar outdoor burning, forbidding the use of burn barrels and outdoor fireplaces. Schoharie County extended its burn ban, and Saratoga and Montgomery counties already had bans in place.

The ban on all outdoor burning in Schoharie County, ordered last Wednesday, has been extended through at least Saturday, county Fire Coordinator Matt Brisley said Monday.

No major fires were reported in the county over the weekend, but Brisley said police had to be called in cases when people initially refused firefighters’ orders to douse an evening bonfire or campfire.

Brisley said anyone burning in violation of the ban could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Schenectady County Fire Coordinator John Nuzback said, “It’s dry throughout the entire state. You have a lot of dead brush and the winds over the weekend tended to dry out things even more. We could get even more brush fires.”

Since last week, fire companies in the county had to battle a half-dozen brush fires, Nuzback said. “They are what I would term relatively minor in nature. The fire departments were able to put them out quickly.”

However, the current ground conditions could easily spark the large brush fires experienced elsewhere, Nuzback said. Brush fires scorched 40 acres in Rensselaerville on Thursday and 3,000 forested acres in Ulster County over the weekend, he said.

The dry weather is expected to continue for the remainder of the week, said John Quinlan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. There is a possibility of some rain Wednesday and some this weekend, he said.

The Capital Region has not had any measurable level of rain since April 13 when one-tenth of an inch was recorded, Quinlan said. Still, he said, the area is above the norm in terms of the amount of rain that has fallen to date. “We are still way ahead with precipitation. Between Jan. 1 and April 20, we had 13.5 inches. The norm is 10.3 inches,” he said.

What is uncommon about the weather is the duration between rain showers, Quinlan said. “We have gone a significant number of days without rain.”

The area has already met two of three conditions for which the weather service would issue fire weather watches and red flag warnings, Quinlan said. The two conditions are a low level of humidity and a significant lack of precipitation. The third condition still to be met is sustained or frequent wind gusts of about 25 mph, he said.

A fire weather watch is issued 24 to 72 hours in advance of the red flag warning. The red flag warning means the criteria will occur within 12 hours.

“We issue them during this time of year, before the leaves are out on the trees,” Quinlan said.

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