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Open Burning

Help Prevent Pollution and Wildfires


Annual burn ban in effect from March 16 through May 14.

Open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires in NYS. Since the spring burn ban was implemented in 2009, the number of wildfires has decreased by more than 40%.

Watch a Public Service Announcement on open burning and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel (leaves DEC website).

When you plan a fire, always check for fire danger in your area on DEC's online map (updated every week). Also, local governments may have stricter rules than NYS; your fire department will have information about local burning laws.

A family sitting around a campfire

Prohibitions

Open burning is prohibited in NYS, with several exceptions:

  • Campfires or any other outdoor fires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter are allowed.
  • Small cooking fires are allowed.
  • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires are allowed. Disposal of flags or religious items in a small-sized fire is allowed, if it is not otherwise prohibited by law or regulation.
  • Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned.
  • Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.

In towns with a total population less than 20,000, you may burn tree limbs with attached leaves. The limbs must be less than 6 inches in diameter and 8 feet in length (also referred to as brush). However, this is not allowed from March 16 through May 14 due to the increased risk of wildfires. Burning loose leaves or leaf piles is illegal.

The practice of burning large piles of brush collected from local residents at town or county transfer sites is prohibited. The individual landowners in small towns may burn their brush on-site, as discussed above. Downed limbs and branches generated at a transfer site are also allowed to be burned on-site with the same restrictions. See Section 215.3 (leaves DEC website) for a full list of exceptions.

Please note: While most firewood must be untreated, some firewood is heat treated (kiln dried) to control invasive insect species if it is to be transported over 50 miles. Heat treated firewood is not intended to be prohibited. However, the burning of chemically treated wood, such as pressure-treated lumber and plywood, is prohibited.

Controlling Invasive Species

Open burning to control invasive plant or insect species is allowed. Case-by-case DEC approval is required.

Agricultural Uses

  • Organic agricultural wastes may be burned on-site where they are grown or generated, including brush and wood produced by clearing fields and other activities.
  • Fires must be located on contiguous agricultural land larger than 5 acres, and the materials capable of being fully burned within 24 hours.
  • The burning of pesticides, plastics or other non-organic material is prohibited.
  • The use of liquid petroleum fueled smudge pots to prevent frost damage to crops is allowed.
  • Burning tires and other wastes for smudge is prohibited.
  • Individual open fires to control plant and animal disease outbreaks are allowed as approved on a case-by-case by DEC, upon the request by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets.
  • Prescribed burns - the burning of forest land to achieve a vegetative or wildlife management goal - can be performed, but only in accordance with DEC regulations. Check with your regional DEC office.

Municipal Uses

With some restrictions, fire training burning activities are allowed in accordance with guidance from NYS Department of State's Office of Fire Prevention and Control. The Fire Services Bureau may be reached at 518-474-6746. Towns, villages, cities, and counties can pass ordinances that are stricter than the open fires regulations. You should check with local authorities to find out if local law requires a permit or prohibits open fires. Explosives, or other dangerous contraband, may be burned on an emergency basis only by police or other public safety organizations.

Adirondack and Catskills Park Locations

While a permit is not required under this regulation, the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) requires that a burning permit be obtained from DEC if you plan to burn brush under the exception, and you live in a town which is totally or partially located within the boundaries of the Adirondack or Catskill Parks which is designated as a "Fire Town" under the ECL (see list below). In addition, any local requirements or restrictions would apply.

  • Clinton County, the towns of Altona, Ausable, Black Brook, Dannemora, Ellenburg and Saranac;
  • Delaware County, the towns of Andes, Colchester, Hancock and Middletown;
  • Essex County, all towns
  • Franklin County, the towns of Altamont, Belmont, Brighton, Duane, Franklin, Harrietstown, Santa Clara and Waverly;
  • Fulton County, the towns of Bleecker, Caroga, Mayfield, Northampton and Stratford;
  • Greene County, the towns of Hunter, Jewett, Lexington and Windham;
  • Hamilton County, all towns;
  • Herkimer County, the towns of Ohio, Russia, Salisbury and Webb;
  • Lewis County, the towns of Croghan, Diana, Grieg, Lyonsdale and Watson;
  • Oneida County, the towns of Forestport and Remsen;
  • Saratoga County, the towns of Corinth, Day, Edinburg and Hadley;
  • Saint Lawrence County, the towns of Clare, Clifton, Colton, Fine, Hopkinton, Parishville, Piercefield and Pitcairn;
  • Sullivan County, the towns of Neversink and Rockland;
  • Ulster County, the towns of Denning, Gardiner, Hardenburgh, Olive, Rochester, Shandaken, Shawangunk, Wawarsing and Woodstock;
  • Warren County, the towns of Bolton, Chester, Hague, Horicon, Johnsburgh, Lake George, Luzerne, Queensbury, Stoney Creek, Thurman and Warrensburg;
  • Washington County, the towns of Dresden, Fort Ann and Putnam.

Burning Trash is Against the Law

A smouldering trash fire in a barrel

Burning trash is illegal statewide in all cases. Part 219 Incinerators (leaves DEC website) prohibits burning trash in wood stoves, fireplaces, and outdoor wood boilers. It is unhealthy, un-neighborly, and unnecessary. It causes:

  • serious health concerns and diseases,
  • contaminated soil, and
  • discomfort for others enjoying the outdoors or their own property.

Read more about the negative health effects of burning trash on NYSDOH's website (leaves DEC website). Download our burning tip strip (PDF) and poster (PDF).

The Problem with Burn Barrels

Burn barrels are a very dirty way to dispose of trash. They produce polluted air because fires in barrels are rarely hotter than 500°F. That's not hot enough for complete combustion, and incomplete combustion leads to harmful smoke and soot. DEC has lots of information about reducing, reusing, and recycling scrap materials, trash, and other waste you generate at home. Learn how to:

You can report polluters by calling the DEC hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOs (1-844-332-3267).

Campfire Safety

Campfires with family and friends are great fun! To make your next campfire safer and healthier, remember to:

  • Check the Fire Danger Map first to make sure it's safe to have a fire where you are.
  • Watch this clip about Campfire Safety on DEC's YouTube Channel.
  • Avoid burning on windy days.
  • Keep your campfire less than 3 feet high and less than 4 feet wide.
  • Keep flammable objects and debris at least 3 feet away from the fire.
  • Never burn trash, including paper products, plastic, glass, and metal (like tin and aluminum cans).
  • Burn only local firewood.
    • Burn only dry, plain wood - no pressure-treated lumber or plywood, and no painted or stained wood.
    • Untreated wood, split tree logs, and branches are recommended for campfires.
    • Using heat-treated/kiln-dried wood can prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • Never use fire accelerants such as kerosene, gasoline, or lighter fluid.
  • Stay out of the smoke. The fire and its warmth can be pleasant for everyone, but inhaling smoke is unhealthy for you and for your pets.
  • Keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby. Never leave your fire unattended.
  • When you're finished with your fire, fully extinguish it. Stirring water or dirt into the remains of the fire can help.

We want you to fully enjoy your campfire. Following these guidelines will help ensure a safer gathering.