Which Fires are Legal in New York? The Great Debate
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", Shakespeare reminds us. But what about fires?
A massive debate has erupted between Hudson Valley hikers over the definition of "burn" when it comes to fire regulations on our local trails. It all started when a local resident came across flames in the forest.
What Fires are Allowed in New York State Parks?
"I was in Harriman today. I entered under a sign that read 'No Fires'... [then] I saw smoke and heard voices", the post began. They went on to describe finding two hikers using a camp stove just off the trail. The post continued:
"I said that there weren't supposed to be fires in this park because of the danger. He answered "No OPEN fires. That's a gas stove." I said "No, the sign said 'no fires,' two words."
Hundreds of people joined the discussion about who was correct and what "no fires" meant.
The Great Fire Debate in the Hudson Valley
"No fire means no fire", offered one commenter. "You will always be allowed to use a gas stove in the backcountry... period... anywhere and everywhere in the US", countered another. But what does the law say?
Camp Stoves vs. Campfires in New York
Fire definitions vary from town to town, but the regulations at Harriman State Park are clear. "Open fires are only permitted in the firepits and fireplaces of the lean-tos, and in barbecue grills at the beaches and campgrounds... If you need to do some cooking on the trail, consider bringing a small sterno camp stove", comes the answer from their "frequently asked questions" section. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) chimes in too.
While the annual burn ban in New York extends from March 16th to May 14th, several fires are still permitted, even during those dates. They include campfires less than three feet tall (and 4 feet wide), and "small cooking fires". Burning leaves is always illegal in New York.