Due to a lack of rainfall recently, County Executive George Latimer is urging residents to follow safety precautions to reduce the risk of fires breaking out in Westchester.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has declared a High Fire Danger Warning for Westchester County and most of the state,” Latimer said. “This is the second highest fire danger level and it means that Westchester is at very high risk for fire.”

Commissioner Richard G. Wishnie of the Department of Emergency Services said Westchester has seen an increase in brush fires in the past week. He noted that fires in wooded areas have occurred on extremely hot days and on difficult terrain.

“Fires in wooded areas pose many challenges for the fire service. Access to the fire can be difficult, the terrain can be uneven or hilly, and sources of water are limited. We are grateful to our firefighters in Westchester for the work they are doing to keep these fires from spreading so we can be all stay safe.”

With no significant rain in the immediate forecast, Latimer urged residents to follow some practical tips provided by the staff at DES. The tips cover how to safely use a grill or fire pit at home or a camp fire in wooded areas where they are permitted. 

Barbeque Safety Tips

  • Propane and Charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home and deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.  Keep grills away from steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep the grill clean by removing grease and prevent grease from building up on grill grates or in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave a working grill unattended.
  • Always make sure the gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
  • When cooking is finished on a charcoal grill, let the coals completely cool before disposing of them in a metal container.  Place the metal container away from the house and any dry brush.

Fire pit safety tips

  • Never burn on a windy day.
  • Ensure your fire pit is on an even surface to reduce the risk of fire spilling out on to the ground.
  • Clear all flammable material for a distance of 10 to 15 feet around the fire, and keep the fire pit this same distance from the house or other structures (for example, a backyard shed).
  • Remember to think vertically as well.  There should be nothing above the fire pit, such as a tree branch, an awning or a covered patio.
  • Never put the fire pit directly on a flammable surface such as a wood deck.
  • Keep piles of material to be burned small, adding small quantities of material as burning progresses.
  • Always have a garden hose, shovel, water bucket or other means to extinguish the fire close at hand.
  • Never leave the fire pit unattended.

Camping safety tips

  • Use existing campfire rings where possible.
  • Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves.
  • Pile extra wood away from the fire.
  • Clear the area around the ring of leaves, twigs and other flammables materials.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly; and
  • Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath.