Hawley Reiterates Strong Opposition To New Burn Ban

A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia)

This week, the State Department of Environmental Conservation enacted a series of new regulations regarding banning open fires and burning of waste. I have been, and continue to be, ardently opposed to these new and cumbersome regulations, especially for our rural communities.

In fact, I would like the residents of Western New York to know that I am working together with my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, to change the new regulations that went into effect yesterday. Specifically, I would like to see the regulations loosened to allow citizens to safely burn refuse and non-toxic garbage, while still achieving the DEC’s goal to reduce carcinogens and improve air quality.

Like many of my constituents, friends and neighbors here in Western New York, I believe these new regulations are burdensome, circumvented our democratic process by bypassing the State Legislature, and stifling citizens’ voices by enacting these new regulations, despite the overwhelming public opposition. In fact, I attended the DEC’s hearings on these regulations and witnessed first-hand the many residents who spoke out against banning open burning to this extent.

While I continue working with my colleagues in Albany to reduce or repeal these regulations, it is important for all residents to be aware of the changes and to know that when open fires are permitted (see below) only charcoal or clean, dry, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned, and all fires must never be left unattended and must be fully extinguished. All open burning is prohibited in New York State, exceptfor the following:

  • Campfires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length;
  • Small cooking fires, including barbecue grills, maple sugar arches and similar outdoor cooking devices when actually used for cooking or processing food;
  • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires, such as burning of flags as a proper means of disposal;
  • Usage of liquid petroleum-fueled smudge pots to prevent frost damage to crops;
  • On-site burning of agricultural wastes as part of a valid agricultural operation on contiguous agricultural lands larger than five acres actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use, provided such waste is actually grown or generated on those lands and such waste is capable of being fully burned within a 24-hour period;
  • Fire training (including firefighting, fire rescue and fire/arson investigation training) performed under applicable rules and guidelines of New York State Department of State’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control;
  • Individual open fires as approved by the Director of the Division of Air Resources as may be required in response to an outbreak of a plant or animal disease upon request by the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, or for the destruction of invasive plant and insect species; and
  • Burning on an emergency basis of explosives or other dangerous or contraband materials by police or other public safety organizations.