Burn ban will be lifted MondayBy SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The summer burn ban ends Monday, and Cowetans who plan to burn leaves or other vegetation are required to get a permit for their burning — no matter how small.
Burn permits are free and easy to get — and they protect you in case your fire gets out of hand and has to be put out by the Georgia Forestry Commission or by local fire departments.
To get a burn permit, visit www.gatrees.org or call 1-877-OK2Burn (877-652-2876).
Permits are only good for the day they are obtained.
Some people don’t think about getting a burn permit for something like a small pile of leaves, but they are supposed to.
“It’s so easy to get a burn permit anyway, it’s ridiculous not to get one,” Quigley said.
The only thing that is legal to burn is hand-piled, natural vegetation. Any man-made material, from trash to lumber, is illegal.
If you suspect illegal burning of trash, it can be reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division at 404-362-2671.
You can also report it to the Georgia Forestry Commission at 770-254-7217 or the Coweta County Fire Department at 770-254-3900. “And we will do what we can to find out who’s doing it,” Quigley said.
But you need to have a good idea of where the burning is. “A lot of times we can’t just ride around following the smell,” Quigley said. The GFC can’t follow up on anonymous complaints, either, Quigley said.
If they do find an illegal burn, they will put it out and write a notice of violation. Quigley can bill the burner for the cost of putting out the fire — and that includes paying the cost of the employee from the time they leave the office.
“If somebody is just burning their paper or something like that, it will be a warning the first time,” Quigley said. “But if I see it has been done a lot before, I’ve got the right to write them a notice of citation and send them a bill for our suppression fee.”
You can get a violation notice and a bill for any illegal burn — even one that would be legal if you had just gotten a permit.
When it comes to burning vegetation, Quigley urges Cowetans to be mindful of the smoke from their fires and to be considerate of their neighbors.
“Folks need to start having a little courtesy for their neighbors,” Quigley said. “If we find that you’re bothering your neighbors ... you’re getting a lot of complaints because of the smoke ... we have an obligation to put the fire out whether you have a permit or not, if we feel it is unsafe or you’re smoking out your neighbor,” Quigley said.
“You don’t have a right to burn,” Quigley said. It’s a privilege. And if you’re not considerate “it can be taken away from you,” Quigley said.
They’ll only get involved if it is serious.
“If I pull up and I can’t see the neighbor’s house” because of the smoke, “then you are going to put your fire out,” he said. “But if you are burning under good weather conditions and it is the right stuff that you’re burning ... we’ll work with it as I get there,” he said.
They get a lot of complaints about people burning. And, many times, it seems that the complaints are the result of conflicts among neighbors.
If you have a problem with your neighbor’s burning, Quigley said, “walk over there and talk to them, see if they’ll burn on another day” or do something else to address your concerns. “Don’t leave it up to us. Be neighborly,” he said.
Some ways to reduce the smoke from burns is to be sure that what you’re burning is dry, and “clean” — that is, without a lot of dirt in it. Also, don’t start burning until after 10 a.m. or burn after dark — that’s the law, anyway.
If there is a light breeze, that’s fine, but if it’s really windy and you live in a neighborhood “then more than likely you are going to be affecting somebody next door or behind you or in front of you,” Quigley said. “Give your neighbors a break.”
Dried leaves can be one of the smokiest things to burn.
But they don’t have to be. Often, “people just let them smolder,” Quigley said. “Stir them up constantly while they’re burning, and they’ll burn up faster,” he said.
When you are getting ready to do a burn, some common sense tips will help keep that controlled burn from getting out of control.
Stay with your fire. Don’t set it and forget it. And be sure to have a water hose or other water source handy. You should have a rake or a shovel with you to help control the fire — and a cell phone to call 911 if things get out of control. If the fire gets out of hand, it’s better to call 911 sooner rather than later, according to Quigley. If you manage to put the fire out yourself, you can always cancel the fire department call, but if you wait too long, it can be disastrous.