Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner


Wildland Fire Safety and Prevention

Forest Ranger Emergency Contact:

  • 1-833-NYS-RANGERS (1-833-697-7264)
Watch a clip about the statewide open burning ban and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.
Firewise New York Logo

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers and the national Firewise Communities program are working to inform New York State residents about wildland fire safety and prevention.

Wildland Fire (Wildfire)

Fire burning the forest floor

Wildland fires (wildfires) are cyclic, naturally-occurring events in most wildland areas. Periodic wildland fires reduce the amount of "fuel" (dead branches, brush, leaf litter, etc.) in the forest, preventing larger more destructive fires. Periodic fires also help promote the growth of certain species of trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns and wild flowers. Wildland fires help maintain healthy, natural landscapes. However, wildland fires can also result in disastrous loss of life, property, and natural resources.

Wildland fires do occur in New York State. Many areas in New York, particularly those that are heavily forested or contain large tracts of brush and shrubs, are prone to fires. The Adirondacks, Catskills, Hudson Highlands, Shawangunk Ridge, and Long Island Pine Barrens are examples of fire-prone areas.

Fire engines with a background of walls of flame from the 1995 Sunrise Fire in Long Island

DEC Forest rangers are concerned that many rural communities throughout the state may be at risk from wildfire damage. Wildfires may occur more frequently, with greater intensity, and with much more potential for damage because of a variety of factors, including:

  • Accumulation of fuels, like dead branches, brush and leaf litter, due to the lack of significant fires in the recent past;
  • Climate change, causing warmer and dryer fire seasons, increasing the threat of fires starting from lightning strikes;
  • Increased construction of homes and structures in densely forested areas, increasing threats to life and property; and
  • Firefighting resources that are insufficient to combat larger fires and protect structures.

Wildland/Urban Interface

Due to their remoteness and scenic beauty, forests and other wildland areas are increasingly attracting people who build primary residences or seasonal homes. These homes are susceptible to wildland fires, as they are often built on the edge or in the middle of fuels that feed wildland fires-trees, shrubs, and brush.

Houses with forest and smoke behind them

Homes and other buildings in these areas are referred to as the wildland/urban interface. The wildland/urban interface is any location where human structures and woodlands intermingle, allowing a wildland fire to reach beyond trees, brush, and other natural fuels to ignite homes and their immediate surroundings.

Since 2009, wildfires in New York have destroyed 10 homes and threatened 219. There was one fatality and 44 others were injured as a result of wildfires during this time.

Homeowners and communities can take steps to reduce the risk of wildland fire and protect their lives and property from wildland fire. Learn more by using the links below.

More about FIREWISE New York: