Brush Fire Risks Increase During Spring Season

The Town Fire Marshal wants to provide our residents with an update on fire activity and concerns within Penfield. With the unusually dry conditions, a recent residential fire on Route 250 became a real threat to the fields of grass, corn stalks, and shrubbery at the southwest corner of Rt. 250 and Rt. 286. A slight increase in winds could have caused a bad situation to become even worse.

For most of us, the mild and dry weather of the past few weeks has seemed like a dream as we emerge from winter. However, fire officials understand that these conditions, combined with lingering debris from last fall, make our region vulnerable to field fires—a threat we often associate with the west coast, not Penfield.

In spring, the likelihood of a brush fire is very high, even though we may think of it as a wet season. Trees and brush that have not fully leafed-out will easily burn regardless of any rain we may or may not receive. Brown grass revealed by melting snow is also combustible and can easily burn. And spring can be very windy, causing even the smallest fires to grow and rapidly spread.

Open Burning

There is a temptation to burn yard debris after spring cleanup, but please make note of this: OPEN BURNING of brush, leaves, grass, yard debris, and materials like garbage, paper, or other waste as a means of disposal IS PROHIBITED ALL YEAR LONG IN PENFIELD.

Brush is considered any material that has leaves and/or needles. Burning of materials other than clean seasoned firewood can lead to excess smoke and/or odors and cause a hazard or nuisance. Only farms with agricultural burn permits may conduct open burns under the supervision of the Fire Marshal. Open burning is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York. Violations of open burning code can be reported to the Fire Marshall and/or the Monroe County Sheriff’s office.

Recreational Fires

Outdoor recreational fires are increasingly popular as retailers offer many styles of portable outdoor fireplaces.

The Town of Penfield’s rules for recreational burning is consistent with state, county, and local codes. The Fire Marshal is available to inspect your recreational fire device to be sure you are following guidelines. Detailed safety and enforcement information are available at, but here are few important highlights to make nights around the fire pit more safe and enjoyable for all.

  • The fire must be the same size as the fireplace device and a maximum of three feet wide and two feet high. If the fire is on the ground, it must be located at least 25 feet from ALL combustible materials such as structures, fences, brush, and trees. Fires must also be conducted on non-combustible surfaces.
  • Fires in enclosed factory manufactured fireplace/pits must be no closer than 15 feet from combustible materials. A screen covering a fire is NOT an enclosed portable fireplace.
  • A source of water — like a charged garden hose, water buckets, or a fire extinguisher — must be in the vicinity of the fire to control or extinguish the fire at all times while the fire is burning. 
  • To manage smoke nuisance and unsafe conditions, only clean seasoned firewood may be burned. Wet woods, fresh-cut wood, leaves, brush and painted, stained, and pressure-treated lumber are not permitted.
  • In all cases, competent adult supervision must be at the site while the fire is burning, no new materials may be added to the fire after 10:00 PM, and all fires must be extinguished before abandoning. 

On the enforcement side, complaints and investigations regarding fires and nuisance smoke increase in spring and summer. A recreational fire that creates property damage, personal injury, or is deemed a nuisance may be cause for legal actions to be taken by the Town Fire Marshal or Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Any fire requiring fire or sheriff response may be considered by the responding official as a nuisance fire, and nuisance fires must be extinguished.

Recreational fires are a privilege and any abuse of this privilege may result in legal action taken by the Town of Penfield and/or the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Please be considerate and take care to ensure your fire is not creating excess smoke that is drifting into a neighbor’s yard and windows.

Please contact the Fire Marshal at 340-8643 for a recreational fire pit or device inspection or to seek clarification of the fire safety policy. For more information about fire safety and prevention, go to the DEC's FIREWISE New York website.