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Moderate drought conditions elevate fire danger

By Howard B. Owens

With moderate drought conditions in Genesee County, state and local officials are warning residents of unsafe fire conditions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statewide residential open-fire ban last week, and today, Tim Yaeger, Genesee County Emergency Services, urged residents to use caution with any type of fire.

While a small cooking or camping fire is permitted, larger fires, such as a bonfire are out of the question, Yaeger said.

All fires should be no closer than 50 feet to a structure and some sort of extinguishing agent should be within 50 feet of the fire.

"That's the New York Fire code anyway, but we don't want to wind up with the possibility of a fire spreading," Yaeger said.

This time of year, the kind of open burns associated with rural areas and agriculture aren't too common, but people still might be tempted to start fires for recreational purposes and in those cases, extreme caution is in order.

On average, Batavia received about 3.5 inches of rain in July. So far this month, not even a half inch has fallen and precipitation totals for the year are off by more than six inches from average.

The lack of precipitation creates another problem for firefighters -- less available water to fight fires in areas without municipal water.

Typically, when there are no hydrants to connect to, firefighters draw water from nearby creeks and retention ponds.

Yaeger said what he's seen of retention ponds and other standing water sources is that water levels remain adequate but are getting low.

Drawing water from brooks and streams right now might be more difficult for firefighters.

"Brooks and streams are pretty much out of service right now," Yaeger said. "Luckily, in this county, with the additional municipal water services has eased the burden from what it was 10 or 15 years ago."

If there is a fire with current water supply conditions in an area without municipal water, Yaeger said, it will mean scene commanders will need to request additional tankers from mutual-aid departments in order to maintain an adequate water supply to fight any type of fire.

All residential brush burning is banned in the state through Oct. 10.

In issuing the ban, Cuomo said, "These conditions should not be taken lightly. The potential for disastrous wildfires is present in all areas of the state and we must do whatever we can to prevent fires from occurring.

"The state will continue to closely monitor the wildfire danger and we will deploy whatever resources are necessary to protect New Yorkers should a critical situation occur."

Sean Nickerson

My biggest concern is what do we do if we find a witch? The ground is too dry to burn them safely, and with the brooks and streams out of service we can't even do a Trial by water.

Jul 20, 2012, 7:47pm Permalink

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