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DEC ANNOUNCES PRESCRIBED FIRE PLANS FOR LONG ISLAND; DEC and Partner Agencies Treated Approximately 386 Acres in 2022

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced plans for the upcoming 2023 prescribed fire burn season. The burn program this year follows a record-setting prescribed fire season in 2022 where DEC and its partner agencies treated approximately 329 acres of grassland habitat and 57 acres of forested lands for a combined total of 386 acres. Last year’s program saw a dramatic increase in the amount of forest lands treated as DEC and its partner agencies conducted several prescribed burns on DEC’s Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest and the David R. Sarnoff Pine Barrens State Forest that had previously been treated through forest thinning operations as part DEC’s efforts to stem southern pine beetle infestations and reduce wildfire risks to communities that border these forested lands.

“The dramatic increase in areas treated by prescribed fire over the past year show what can be achieved through inter-agency cooperation,” Regional Director Cathy Haas said. “DEC cooperators, whether they are federal, state, county personnel or volunteers, have helped advance Long Island’s prescribed fire program so efforts are now focusing both on restoring habitats and providing protection to communities along the wildland/urban interface.” 

“An effective prescribed burn program is one of the best management tools we have to enhance the natural habitat and reduce the risk of uncontrolled fires to nearby communities,” Assistant DEC Regional Director and Chairman of Central Pine Barrens Joint Policy and Planning Commission Robert Calarco said. “The partnership between DEC, the Central Pine Barrens Commission, and partner agencies allows us to successfully utilize this tool in the important and unique Long Island Pine Barrens.”

“Forest Rangers look forward to another year of prescribed fire on Long Island to meet land management objectives to create a healthier and safer forest,” DEC Division of Forest Protection Director John Solan said.

“We are looking forward to joining DEC and our other partner agencies in building upon the tremendous success of last year’s prescribed fire program,”said Central Pine Barrens Commission Executive Director Judy Jakobsen. “Prescribed fire plays a vital role in protecting both the ecology of the Central Pine Barrens region and the safety of those living in areas adjacent to woodlands.” 

DEC plans and conducts prescribed burns on Long Island year-round. The treatment of grasslands using prescribed fire is generally done in the spring and fall months. Treatment of woodland units, using a combination of mechanical treatments and prescribed fire, can occur during any month between February and November when weather conditions permit. 

The 2023 plan calls for cooperation among federal, state, and local agencies. Burns are conducted in conjunction with personnel from the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Parks, Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and local fire departments. Since 2004, DEC prescribed fire operations resulted in the treatment of approximately 2,078 acres consisting of federal, state and Suffolk County-managed lands. 

Prescribed fire benefits include improvement of wildlife habitat by maintaining grasslands for nesting birds and improves wildlife habitat by maintaining a diverse forest environment. Other benefits include a reduction in highly combustible fuel loads that could potentially feed a wildland fire, as well as the establishment and maintenance of fire breaks that make control and access to wildland fires easier to obtain. Prescribed fires also represent a valuable training opportunity for local firefighters who develop skills needed to fight wildland fires. In addition, prescribed fire improves the safety of communities located near or within woodlands by reducing the intensity of potential wildfires and improving the ability of firefighters to safely access and extinguish wildfires. This public safety improvement is accomplished as the prescribed fire consumes fuels in the understory and then removes the overgrowth of shrubs and high-density small trees.

Before any prescribed fire is conducted, a burn plan is developed. Burn plans outline management’s objectives, as well as parameters that must be satisfied before any prescribed fire can take place. Before fires are conducted, partners closely coordinate with the National Weather Service to give careful consideration to environmental factors such as current and expected weather conditions and smoke management. DEC notifies local law enforcement and local firefighting agencies before conducting any prescribed fires. Individuals, however, are still encouraged to report smoke columns to local authorities. DEC sends out phone messages on the day of prescribed fires to homeowners in the vicinity of these operations to alert them that smoke may be in the area.

More information on wildfire prevention may be found on the FIREWISE New York webpage at:

Individuals interested in participating in prescribed fire operations with DEC Forest Rangers and cooperating agencies must have completed S-130 Firefighter Training and S-190 Introduction to Wildfire Behavior, along with passing physical tests required for this work. Individuals interested in taking these training courses should visit the New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy’s website at: An overview of the Central Pine Barrens Prescribed Fire Management Program can be found at

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BILL FONDACorrespondent

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