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Georgia Forestry: Fire Danger Rising – Public’s Help Needed

An alarming increase in the number of wildfires is happening in Georgia and fire officials are warning everyone to be hyper-aware of weather conditions before doing any type of outdoor burning.

The Georgia Forestry Commission reports 577 wildfires in the past month, which burned some 3,500 acres, and 229 of those fires happened in just the past five days.

“These are human-caused fires,” said Georgia Forestry Commission Chief of Protection Frank Sorrells. “The cause of the majority of these wildfires are from individuals conducting outdoor burning during times when weather conditions are unfavorable.” Sorrells said homes, outbuildings, and motorized equipment have been lost to these wildfires and private citizens have been injured, some seriously.

Sorrells said late winter freezes and frost have caused grasses and vegetation to die back, creating dangerous tinder for fires. Below-normal rainfall, low humidity, and windy conditions have been gripping most of Georgia and forecasters are expecting that to continue for the next three months.

“We need everyone to take this very seriously,” said Sorrells, “because each of us can do something to help.  Awareness is paramount. Do not burn anything outside unless you have checked your local weather forecast, which is readily available online, on TV, and on smartphones.”

Sorrells said it’s unsafe to burn outdoors when relative humidity is lower than 35% or when winds are higher than 10 miles per hour. Don’t burn if there hasn’t been any appreciable rainfall at your location in several days. He also said everyone must follow the laws concerning hand piled natural vegetation, requiring pre-burning safety precautions, which can be remembered by the acronym, SSTAR:

  • SPACE – Be 25 feet from any forestland or flammable vegetation
  • SPACE – Be 50 feet from any structure (homes, shed, barns, etc.)
  • TIME – Burn only from sunrise to sunset
  • ATTENDANCE – Never leave your fire unattended and it must be out when you leave. (no heat remaining)
  • REASONABLE PRECAUTIONS – take precautions to prevent escaped fires to include clearing around the burn location down to mineral soil; on-hand pressurized water sources that can reach all areas around the burning; hand tools such as rakes or shovels to help control the fire.

Other safety tips include caution when cooking outside or using grills; keeping open flames away from combustible vegetation; recognizing hot objects such as vehicle exhaust equipment can easily start fires when grass and vegetation are dry.

“Remember, too, that flammables such as gas and charcoal starter fluid shouldn’t be used on an outside fire, and that it’s dangerous to attempt to put out a wildfire alone. Always call 9-1-1 if your fire gets out of control.”

For more information about fire protection provided by the Georgia Forestry Commission, fire safety tips, and other services of the agency, visit GaTrees.org.


GFC

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