Despite all the rain and snow Central New York received this winter, forest rangers say wildfires remain a major threat because they've already put out several in the area.

Rare Wildfires in February

Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

Wildfires tend to become an issue during the warmer and dryer months, but some are possible during the winter and mud season.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed there have been several wildfires during the month of February. The affected areas included Madison, Herkimer, Schoharie and Delaware County.

Several fires in Delaware and Madison County, as well as the Town of Hamilton, were sparked by burning debris on February 26.

The next day, rangers responded to fires in Delaware and Schoharie County, again caused by burning debris.

Two days after that, on February 29, rangers responded to a small fire that sparked in Herkimer County,

All these fires were not only caused by people burning debris, but doing so on windy days that carried sparks and flames to the more grassy and wooded areas.

What's Causing These Fires?

wattanaphob from Getty Images
wattanaphob from Getty Images

You would think because it's so cold and damp outside, wildfires would have a hard time sparking and even spreading during this time of year. Wildfires in the month of February are super rare because of those soggy and chilly conditions - but they're not impossible.

The DEC said the cause of these fires is due to a lack of snow and with that protective layer gone, vegetation that is usually dormant in the winter is open to the elements. The spring-like fluctuations in the weather is putting them at risk of catching fire. This is further exacerbated by the strong gusts that have impacted the region.

Pair that with people who aren't fully informed about the dangers of burning brush and other things outdoors. The flames are then carried by the wind and cause wildfires to unintentionally spark.

State Burn Ban Justified?

Arson Suspected As Wild Fires Rage Across Israel
Lior Mizrahi, Getty Images

New York State will enact a strict ban on burning brush between March 16 through May 14. The ban does not apply to campfires or fire pits as long as the flames are under 3 feet high and four feet wide. Small cooking fires are also exempt from the ban as long as they're made of the appropriate wood or with charcoal.

The reason for the burn ban is to decrease the chance of unintentional wildfires, especially in areas that are at higher risk of them.

Read More: Statewide Ban Goes Into Effect in New York This Month

DEC Commissioner Basil Steggos said it is very important for New Yorkers to adhere to the burn ban due to the record-breaking wildfires that are currently impacting Texas.

"We’re encouraging New Yorkers who burn woody debris to do it carefully, don't burn on windy days, and have water or equipment ready to extinguish it if needed. All fires must be attended until completely out," he said of those who are trying to sort out their burn piles before the ban goes in effect next week.

Those planning to do some burning this weekend should first observe the state's fire danger map.

Steggos said the state burn ban does work. Since being implemented eight years ago, the number of spring wildfires shrank by 42.6 percent. In 2009, the total number of spring fires was 2,648.

In 2018, the total was reduced to 1,521.

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