While snow and ice blanket the Southern Tier and Central New York, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation tells residents: 'Don't even think about starting up a burn pile."

The State's annual ban on open burning runs from March 16-May 14 and is instrumental in curbing wildfires.

DEC officials say the Burn Ban is responsible for decreasing wildfires by 37% since 2009.

Officials warn that even though much of New York State is under snow, warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions.

Warmer temperatures in the spring also tempt property owners who are clearing brush from their property to light burn piles that can quickly be spread by strong winds and escalate into large grass and wildfires.

Every year, residents have questions on what is or is not allowed.  The DEC says campfires using charcoal or untreated wood are allowed, but people should never leave them unattended and must extinguish them.  Burning garbage or leaves is banned year-round.

Since starting the burn restrictions in 2009, the number of spring fires per year went from 2,649 in 2009 to 1,677 in 2016.  In addition to preventing wildfires, the resstrictions also help reduce air pollution.

The DEC will post a Fire Danger Map rating forecast daily for the 2018 fire season on its website and on the NY Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife App available at the DEC website, www.nysdec.gov.

Violators of the open burning regulation are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense.

To report violations, call 1-800-TIPPDEC (1-800-847-7332) or on the DEC website.