County Executive George Latimer is advising residents that Westchester is currently at a heightened risk for woodland fires and is urging people to take precautions to prevent them.

The current dry conditions have increased the risk of fire in County parks and wooded areas in Westchester and the Hudson Valley region, he said. In recent days, a number of number of large brush fires have occurred around the County.

Commissioner Richard G. Wishnie of the Department of Emergency Services noted that New York State has issued a high fire danger warning for Westchester, which indicates that an elevated fire potential exists due to dry conditions, low relative humidity and strong winds.

“Conditions right now are very dry – we haven’t seen rain for a number of days – and the risk of fire in our parks and wooded areas is very high,” Wishnie said.

Brush fires have occurred in the last few days in Saxon Woods Park in the Scarsdale/White Plains area and in Cortlandt, Greenburgh, Harrison, Lewisboro, Mount Pleasant, New Rochelle, North Castle, North Salem, Ossining and Pelham Manor.

Latimer also noted that a statewide outdoor burn ban is in effect through May 14. This ban is an annual occurrence because the risk of outdoor fires generally is highest in the spring. Details on the burn ban can be found on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation web site:

Latimer provided a few safety tips for residents and visitors to follow to prevent outdoor fires:

  • Where camp fires are permitted, limit their size and never leave one unattended. Make sure it has been fully extinguished before leaving a campsite.
  • The burning of tree limbs or other organic debris is not permitted while the burn ban is in effect.
  • Safely dispose of any charcoal used in a grill or ashes from wood burned in a fireplace.
  • Extinguish cigarettes and other lightened materials safely and do not drop them in any wooded or grassy area.
  • If you observe any smoke or small fire in any park or wooded area, please call 911 immediately so it can be quickly contained.

“When conditions are this dry, a small brush fire can spread rapidly and grow significantly in size in a very short period of time,” Wishnie said. “We are asking the public to take precautions to prevent a woodland fire. A simple, careless action could trigger the beginnings of a serious fire.”