Public officials have initiated an annual burn ban for the entire Ulster County NY area. The ban is in effect from March 15th through May 15th and it prohibits open burning of any kind. What does this mean for residents of Ulster County? Burning tree branches, logs, and other forms of dead wood (including, "brush") is normally allowed in Ulster County, as are campfires and bonfires. However, from March 15th - May 15th open burning of any kind is strictly prohibited due to an increased risk of unintended wildfires. History has shown that this particular time period is when the region is most at risk. Many don't realize that open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires in New York State. People who live in Ulster County undoubtedly remember a 2008 forest fire in Minnewaska State Park. The fire destroyed over 3,000 acres of pristine wilderness and made headlines in the New York Times and elsewhere. The current burning laws were passed in 2009 and toughened restrictions on open burning in the region. Violators face criminal charges as well as financial penalties. Here's a quick reference guide on local burning restrictions, brought to you by Taft Street Realty.
* Remember - You can't burn anything from 3/15 - 5/15! But what about the rest of the year? The following is a quick breakdown of the burning laws that apply for the rest of the year.
What Cannot be Burned in Ulster County and Why?
Ulster County's open burning laws are designed to serve 3 functions: to protect public health, protect property, and protect the environment. So what exactly is prohibited?
The burning of leaves, even in a rural area is not allowed - A lot of people don't know that although they can burn branches and brush, they cannot burn piles of leaves. Burning leaves release smoke that contains dangerous compounds. Also, burning leaf piles give off significant amounts of smoke which is bad for health, particularly among children. Lastly the unwieldy nature of burning leaves makes them unsafe and very susceptible to spreading and causing fires. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (the DEC) encourages composting leaves which is safe and good for the environment.
Burning household trash in burn barrels is prohibited - A once relatively common sight in backyards around Ulster County NY, burn barrels are not used as much these days. In the past, burning household trash was viewed as a favorable disposal method to sending trash to landfills. However smoke from burning garbage can release a variety of dangerous compounds into the air. The DEC maintains that nowadays most household trash items can be properly recycled or composted, which is better for public health and the environment.
Treated wood cannot be burned - What is meant by treated wood? Any wood that has been painted, stained, or applied with any sort of agent is considered treated wood. Tearing down that old shed or deck? You can't burn the wood, no matter how old. The various toxins released by any number of chemicals used to treat wood are extremely bad for one's health and the environment. Do bags of firewood sold in stores count as treated wood? No. Firewood sold at gas stations and in stores has been "heat-treated", a sort of super-drying technique, in order to eliminate bugs and be safely stored and transported. Heat-treated wood is permitted under the 2009 burning laws.
Campers, Hikers, and Bonfire-Lovers of Ulster County - Don't Worry!
Ok, we know what you're thinking, "What about campfires (even of the backyard variety)?! What about my summer bonfire party?!" Don't worry! The burn ban is meant to protect, not hinder, the Ulster County Lifestyle. After May 15th, campfires and small cooking fires are ok, as long as they are no larger than 4 feet in diameter, and the flames reach no higher than 3 feet. Celebratory and/or ceremonial bonfires are allowed too, provided all the wood used is untreated. An absolute must for both campfires and bonfires is that 1.) They can never be left unattended, and 2.) They must always be fully extinguished. Remember to keep a water source nearby to extinguish the fire (a ready garden hose for you backyard fire fans, and a ready pot or bottle of water for campers and hikers) The trick is to consider how you might put the fire out in a jiffy before you actually need to! We here at Taft Street Realty hope this helps further explain the current Ulster County burn ban and the laws that apply throughout the year. Our helpful guides with useful info are why ours is considered the best real estate blog in Ulster County NY!