Starts May 1

Burn ban begins on Wednesday

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Metro Atlanta’s summer burn ban kicks in May 1, meaning Cowetans have until Tuesday to burn any yard debris or other “natural hand-piled vegetation.”

The metro Atlanta “non-attainment” area is under the burn ban for air quality each year from May 1 to Sept. 30. The only open burning allowed during the ban is recreational fire. 

Burning of debris — even a small pile of leaves or brush — requires a burn permit, available by calling 1-877-OK2-BURN or visiting 

Permits are only “turned on” if the weather is right. And because of the weather forecast for the weekend, permits may not be issued Saturday and Sunday. 

“It’s probably going to rain Saturday and Sunday, so Monday and Tuesday are probably going to be their last chance to burn,” said Terry Quigley, chief ranger at the Coweta Office of the Georgia Forestry Commission. 

Permits aren’t issued when it is raining or when there is low cloud cover, according to Quigley. Low clouds or rain can push the smoke down, meaning it can bother neighbors. 

Whether permits are issued depends on what the weather forecast is for noon, Quigley said. Even if permits aren’t issued for the rest of the month, there won’t be any extensions, he said. 

Burning without a permit is against the law. If an non-permit burn gets out of hand, the homeowner incurs the cost of putting it out. With a permit any potential problem is covered. 

Some ways to reduce smoke from burns is to be sure debris 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.

Homeowners should stay with fires and have a hose or other source of water close at hand, along with a rake or shovel 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. A fire department call always can be cancelled if control is regained, but delay can be disastrous. 

The only thing that it is legal to burn is “hand piled” natural vegetation.

Any man-made material, from trash to lumber, is illegal. Always. 

Illegal burning of trash can be reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division at 404-362-2671, 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, cautioning that the GFC can’t follow up on anonymous tips and those reporting should have a good idea of where the illegal burn is taking place.

“We can’t just ride around following the smell,” he said.

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