Danger of brush fires high in Capital Region

Brush fires in Montgomery and Schoharie counties in the past few days, fueled by a dry winter and fa
Town of Florida Third Assistant Fire Chief Les Bramer pokes through hot spots burning from a log while putting out a brush fire in 2008 at a farm on Cemetery Road. 
Dry conditions at the times caused some communities to institute a ban on outdoor burni...
Town of Florida Third Assistant Fire Chief Les Bramer pokes through hot spots burning from a log while putting out a brush fire in 2008 at a farm on Cemetery Road. Dry conditions at the times caused some communities to institute a ban on outdoor burni...

Brush fires in Montgomery and Schoharie counties in the past few days, fueled by a dry winter and fast warm-up, have county officials urging residents to refrain from open burning before the start of the statewide burn ban next week.

In a statement on Sunday, Montgomery County officials encouraged residents not to do any outdoor burning and to use “extreme caution” due to “abnormally early spring-like conditions” with high winds and dry vegetation.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s ban on residential brush burning begins March 16 and runs through May 14, during what the DEC calls high fire-risk season. The ban prohibits all outdoor fires except small campfires and ceremonial or celebratory bonfires.

Last year, the ban was extended by a week as dry, hot conditions persisted.

“We’ve experienced quite a few brush and grass fires already this season and it’s caused us to be concerned,” Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jeffrey T. Smith said on Wednesday.

He said fire departments around the county doused four brush fires over the weekend and a few on Tuesday, when temperatures hit nearly 80 degrees.

The weekend fires included a two-acre burn in the town of Mohawk on Sunday that encroached upon a nearby horse farm. In another, the property owner was injured trying to put the fire out.

“Unfortunately the spring weather’s here a little quicker than in years past,” Smith said. “And there’s no snow, the temperature’s pretty warm, so people are outside cleaning up already where normally maybe they wouldn’t be this time of year. And even though they think the ground is wet, all the grass and high weeds and things like that on top of the ground are still dead so they burn very quickly.”

Firefighters in Cobleskill battled a controlled burn that got out of control on Wednesday on Sagendorf Corners Road, according to Schoharie County Fire Coordinator Matt Brisley. He said there was a separate brush fire earlier that morning in Central Bridge.

“We’ve had a few in the past week and I’m sure it’s only going to get worse between now and next Wednesday when the burn ban takes effect,” he said.

He said the firefighting is complicated by the fact that the ground is too wet to drive heavy fire-fighting vehicles on, while the vegetation on top is “tinder dry.”

Like Montgomery County officials, he said he was urging Schoharie County residents to refrain from open burning this week, or at least use extreme caution.

Schenectady County has not seen problems with brush fires so far, largely because most towns in the county have strict regulations on outdoor burning, according to county spokesman Joe McQueen. He did say, however, they would also urge those residents who can and want to burn to use caution after the dry winter.

Emergency management officials in Saratoga and Fulton counties said Wednesday they had not had much trouble with brush fires yet and were hoping that rain expected over the next day or two would dampen the fire hazard.

Saratoga County Fire Coordinator Ed Tremblay said they had their first small brush fire of the season near the Northway Wednesday morning, and it was out before firefighters arrived.

“The only thing we can do is ask people not burn, which we will do if we don’t get some substantial rain tonight and tomorrow,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t come to having to enact any executive orders.”

In a news release, Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, along with Smith and Fire Coordinator Dale Furman, said they’re considering enacting their own official burn ban for Montgomery County if they continue to see brush fires over the next few days.

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @kyleradams on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

0 Comments

No Comment.