Georgia’s annual ban on outdoor burning will end September 30 in 54 counties, primarily in the northern half of the state. From May 1 through the end of September, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division mandates the restrictions to protect air quality from emissions that may increase ground level ozone.
While burning a pile of crispy fall leaves outdoors is a must for many this time of year, a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission is always required before lighting that first match. Weather conditions and predictions in each county are carefully considered before a permit can be issued. Permits can be obtained at GaTrees.org, by calling the local GFC office or by dialing 1-888-OK-2-BURN.
“Our first concern is always safety,” said Georgia Forestry Commission Protection Chief Frank Sorrells. “Recent rainfall from tropical storms have provided sufficient moisture in some parts of the state to lower the overall fire danger, however there are some pockets of dryness in the northwest part of the state and in the greater Savannah area.” The GFC is monitoring the short and long term forecast and will initiate expanded preparedness and response plans, if conditions warrant.
The 54 counties whose burn bans will be lifted on October 1 are: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Columbia, Coweta, Crawford, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Putnam, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Twiggs, Upson, Walker and Walton.
Sorrells said the leading cause of wildfire in Georgia is debris burning that gets out of control. In addition to a permit, burners should take extra precautions by clearing flammable material and vegetation from around the fire area, and have a shovel, water and cell phone on hand. Never leave a fire unattended.
“The Georgia Forestry Commission recognizes the value of prescribed fire and the desire for residents to utilize fire’s many benefits,” said Sorrells. “Fortunately, technology has enabled us to have very precise weather forecasting abilities. We’re working closer than ever with landowners to keep open burning safe and productive.”