Area entering brush fire season

The brush fire season — the three or four weeks between the time the snow melts and the spring seaso

The brush fire season — the three or four weeks between the time the snow melts and the spring season’s new growth emerges — has started.

Firefighters were called to small brush fires in Saratoga and Montgomery counties on Tuesday as dead undergrowth left over from last fall dried out and ignited.

“The dead stuff dries out real quick,” said Saratoga County Fire Coordinator Ed Tremblay.

Tremblay said there were small brush fires in the town of Day and in Greenfield.

Chief John Lant of the Greenfield Fire Protection District said four or five acres burned late Tuesday afternoon in an open area well behind Maple Avenue Middle School near the Saratoga Springs-Greenfield border. No structures were involved, and there were no injuries.

In Montgomery County, there was a brush fire in Rural Grove, in the town of Root, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department.

At the peak of the brush fire season, there can sometimes be dozens of small brush fires across the region on a warm, sunny and windy afternoon.

Trembly said the new state Department of Environmental Conservation law that went into effect a little more than a year ago prohibits any open burning between March 15 and May 15.

He said this may have decreased the number of brush fires reported in 2010. Open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires in the state, according to a DEC statement on the new open burning regulations.

In Albany’s Pine Bush, there are controlled burns conducted each year.

Neal Gifford, conservation director for the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, said these prescribed burns are done for two reasons.

The first reason is to burn off undergrowth so that the blue lupine can grow in the sand planes. This plant is used by the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

The other reason is to burn dead undergrowth that that could start a wildfire in the 6,000-acre pine barrens.

In 1999, a prescribed burn intended to burn seven acres ended up burning 65 acres in and near the Pine Bush preserve when winds changed during the burn.

Since then, the state and Pine Bush Preserve officials have instituted more stringent regulations that take into account wind conditions and moisture in undergrowth and soil.

“There is a window between snow melt and green-up,” Gifford said.

He said the state DEC approves a set of conditions when such a burn can be done.

“Things are a little bit wet,” Gifford said about the current conditions. “It can go from too wet one day to too dry two or three days later.”

Gifford said no date has been set yet for this year’s prescribed burns in the Pine Bush.

The Pine Bush’s Discovery Center at 195 New Karner Road in Albany will have a showing of a new video about prescribed fires at 6 p.m. April 28.

Prescribed burns are also conducted in the spring at the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater.

These burns keep the battlefield vistas open so visitors can see the landscape as it looked during the 1777 Battles of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War.

Superintendent Joseph Finan said the National Park Service has a carefully considered controlled burn procedure that requires weather and moisture conditions to be just right.

Finan said that between the second and third week in April to the second week of May is the time these burns are conducted.

This year, the controlled burn will be done on the hills near Stop No. 9 on the tour road in the battlefield park, but no date has yet been set.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply