Summer burn ban begins on May 1

by Sarah Fay Campbell

The annual summer burn ban starts on May 1, meaning Cowetans have just a few days left this season to take care of any outdoor burning of vegetation. The only type of items that can be legally burned are “hand piled, natural vegetation.” That means fallen limbs, trimmings from pruning, and other yard debris. Burning lumber, plastic, garbage and the like is not allowed at any time. When fires are allowed, all fires require a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission – even if you’re burning a small pile of leaves. Burn permits are free and easy to get, but are not issued during times when burning is ill advised – such as periods of high wind, rain, low cloud cover, or extremely dry conditions.
The annual burn ban runs May 1 to Sept. 30. During the ban, the only type of outdoor burning that is allowed is “recreational fires.” The burn ban isn’t to stop wildfires in hot, dry Georgia summers. Instead, it is about air quality, which tends to get worse in the summer. The burn ban extends to 54 metro-Atlanta counties. There is a state-wide ban on burning of garbage. The weather forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain Tuesday and Wednesday, so permits likely won’t be issued on those days, said Terry Quigley, chief ranger at the Coweta office of the Georgia Forestry Commission. To get a permit, call 1-877-OK2-Burn (877-652-2876). Or you can get one online at If you’re burning without a permit and something happens – the fire gets out of hand, for instance – you’ll likely be issued a notice of violation and will be charged for the cost of the fire response from the Georgia Forestry Commission. If you have a permit, you’re covered. Several months ago, in Grantville, a home was destroyed by an un-permitted burn that got out of control. A neighbor’s home was also damaged. But, on the whole, it hasn’t been a bad burn season. Quigley said that 13,000 permits were issued this year in Coweta. The GFC had to respond to 19. Quigley said that the Coweta County Fire Department likely responded to many more. Simply following a few common sense rules can help keep your controlled burn from getting out of control. One – 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. “When you are burning leaves and pine straw, keep it stirred up, keep it showing fire,” Quigley said. “As long as there is fire burning, then it is not producing really thick smoke.” “A burning fire produces a lot less smoke than a smoldering fire,” Quigley said. If you see a fire that is getting out of hand and looks to be causing immediate danger, call 911. To report illegal burning of garbage or other illegal burns, call the Georgia Forestry Commission at 770-254-7217.

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