MAYVILLE - Residen-tial brush burners beware, a state ban is in effect.
The ban comes as the state enters its historically high fire-risk period - from March 16 through May 14. Under the law, all residential brush burning is prohibited with violators subject to a $500 fine.
And with a mild winter, the risk of fires have increased.
"This time of year has the most risk of fires and the risk is even greater this year due to the extremely mild winter we've seen across the state," said Joe Martens, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner. Martens said since open burning regulations were passed in 2009, fewer fires have been reported in the state.
"In an effort to protect the health and safety of our children, families and our natural environment, we remind residents that brush burning is banned state-wide beginning (in March)."
The state also toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. The regulation allows some burning during portions of the year in towns with a population of fewer than 20,000. The burning of garbage is prohibited at all times in all places.
On Monday, County Executive Greg Edwards reminded residents of the ban.
"Several factors enable wildfires to start easily and spread quickly at this time," Edwards said, "including the lack of green vegetation, abundance of available fuels such as dry grass and leaves, warm temperatures and wind."
The county executive said due to unusually warm weather this year, the county has significantly increased the risk for "dangerous and devastating" wild fires.
"Open burning is the largest single cause of wildfires in New York state," Edwards added.
According to the DEC's Forest Protection Division, debris burning accounted for 36 percent of wildfires in the state between 1985 and 2009. From 2000 to 2009, New York's fire departments responded to an average of 2,3000 wildfires each year from March 16 through May 14.
Violators of the ban are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, including fines. To report environmental law violations, Edwards encourages anyone to call 1-800-TIPP DEC or online at DEC's website.