Arsonist sets 30 fires across four CNY counties while brush fire danger is "high"

At a time when the brush fire danger in Central New York has been designated as "high", local police are searching for an arsonist.

The arsonist may be responsible for setting as many as 30 brush fires in Cayuga, Tompkins, Wayne and Ontario Counties.

Officials tell CNY Central that most of the fires were set along the sides of rural roads and quickly contained by area fire departments. They're asking any one with information to contact their county Sheriff's Department.

At this time of year, brush fires become increasingly more common. As of Tuesday morning, the State Department of Environmental Conservation had rated the fire danger in Central New York as "high."

The nearly snow-less winter and the recent warm weather means there is a lot of dead dry vegetation that can fuel a fire. Add in the winds of early spring and Brian Dahl, the head of Cayuga County's Emergency Management Office, says you have a perfect recipe for brush fires.

"Everybody knows a brush fire sucks in oxygen and it creates its own wind, so you may have a light prevailing wind and with the fire pushing more spreads much more quickly," Dahl told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.

On March 16th, the DEC imposed a burn ban which prohibits open burning by property owners during the early spring. The legislation allowing the DEC to take such an action took effect in 2009. Prior to the burn ban law, fire departments responded to an average of 2300 wild fires each spring. After 2009, the number of wild fires dropped by 26 percent.

There have been a couple of brush fires in Onondaga County, with dozens more in Cayuga County. Authorities are investigating whether most of them could have been set by an arsonist.

Dahl says brush fires remain a big problem, especially for the firefighters who must bring them under control.

"We train for it, but how do you train for a brush fire. Brush fires spread so quick," said Dahl.

The statewide burn ban remains in effect through May 14th.

If you have brush to get rid of, don't burn it. Rather take it to a compost site or contact your town to see if there are other disposal options.