Late fall is campfire season in New York. There’s something so perfect about sitting around a roaring blaze with family and friends, sipping cider, and enjoying a crisp night under the stars.

Of course, there are the standard safety measures to take as far as outdoor fires are concerned – keep away from buildings or low hanging trees, avoid fires on windy days and make sure the firepit is ringed off and clear of debris. But in New York, there’s one lesser-known fire rule that could leave you with a $350 fine – or even jail time.

Don't Bug Me

A campfire in a backyard firepit

Since 2009, New York has followed strict rules dealing with the prevention of exotic pests under Environmental Conservation Law. As part of this, the state put strict limits on what firewood you can transport and burn.

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According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, untreated firewood imported into NY from any other state or country and untreated firewood grown in NY transported more than 50 miles from its origin without being heat-treated are both illegal.

"Buy It Where You Burn It"

Seasoned (air-dried) and kiln-dried wood does not count as heat-treated. Proper heat-treatment involves the wood being cured at 160° F for 75 minutes. If you’re carrying firewood by auto, make sure to have documentation saying where the wood is originally from and state certification of heat-treatment, if applicable.

A USDA poster discouraging moving firewood

These are the pests that the law is meant to stop the spread of. Some are them are already in New York, and some are outside state lines.

  • Asian loghorned beetle
  • Oak wilt
  • Emerald ash borer
  • Asian gypsy moth
  • Light brown apple moth
  • Brown spruce longhorned beetle

If these invasive pests get loose on your property they could kill the trees in your backyard or neighborhood. If they spread to a campground or state park or forest, it could wipe out whole tree species and cause millions in damage.

If you’re caught transporting or burning untreated firewood that doesn’t meet state regulations, prepare to pay the price. Any law enforcement can inspect your firewood under Environmental Conservation Law and levy a $250 fine, $100 civil penalty, and up to 15 days in jail.

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