High fire hazard warning in Delaware County


By Jill Ribich

New York has begun its fire season and it will continue through September 15, according to a fire management report by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). 

The danger of fire is very high in the central Catskills now due to dry conditions and the lack of green plant material in the woods. Deadwood and dried leaves that have accumulated on the ground over the winter increase the risk and size of forest fires. While clearing and controlled burning can help reduce that fire hazard, residential brush burning can also spread into dangerous wildfires that threaten homes and lives.

To prevent a fire from getting out of hand, never leave a fire unattended and make sure it is completely out before you leave. Never build a fire on a windy day and always have water and a rake or shovel on hand. 

You should clear the area around your fire of burnable materials in a radius of 10 feet and keep the fire itself small enough so that you can control it. 

Before you light a controlled burn, it is required that you notify 911 of your intentions and call again once the fire is out. This can prevent a “false alarm” that takes our volunteer firefighters from their jobs or families. 

While burning brush under controlled conditions can be beneficial, burning household trash can cause harmful health effects due to the release of potentially dangerous compounds found in trash fires.

Toxic chemicals 

According to the State Department of Health, some of the toxic chemicals released by burning household trash and their potential dangers include: benzene (leukemia), toluene disocyanate (asthma), nitrogen oxides (lung damage), nitride compounds (metabolic poisons) and other carcinogens such as dioxins and formaldehyde, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, hydrogen cyanide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium.  Not only does burning release these pollutants into the air, but the ashes of these fires can contain numerous hazardous materials that would be harmful if ingested. People can be exposed to those chemicals by eating fruits and vegetables grown near the trash-fire or in garden soil tilled with the ashes. 

To avoid exposure you  should never burn the following items: plastic, foam cushions, furniture, rugs, floor coverings, appliances, rubber, tires, metals, glass, tree stumps, roots, asphalt shingles, any roofing materials, drywall, insulation, or any pressure treated wood (including deck lumber, railroad ties, and telephone poles treated with chromate copper arsenate, creosote or pentachlorophenol.

You should only burn the following materials: clean unpainted and uncoated wood, tree limbs, branches, twigs, lawn clippings, or woody vegetation other than stumps. Until the high fire hazard warning is lifted, all outdoor burning is prohibited.