Published Friday, April 27, 2012
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The annual burn ban begins Tuesday, leaving Cowetans four days to take care of any needed prescribed burning or burning of leaves and other yard debris.
The burn ban, which is designed to protect air quality — not to guard against wild fires — runs from May 1 to Sept. 30 each year.
To be legal, a burn permit is required for all outdoor burns — even for the burning of leaves.
A burn permit is free and easy to get — just call Georgia Forestry Commission at 1-877-OK2-Burn or visit www.gatrees.org .
Getting a burn permit is good insurance if things go wrong. If your fire gets out of hand, you’re not liable for the costs of putting it out — as long as you have a permit. Those who burn without a permit and need help putting the fire out can get hit with a bill.
The only kind of burning that doesn’t require a permit, and isn’t restricted by the burn ban, is a “recreational fire.”
Agricultural burning can be done during the burn ban, but a permit is required.
When weather conditions aren’t good for controlled burning, permits won’t be issued.
Terry Quigley, chief ranger for the Coweta District office of the Georgia Forestry Commission, said he had to “turn off” permits last Sunday and Monday because of the high winds.
Permits usually aren’t given out during rainy or exceptionally overcast days, because the rain and clouds tend to hold the smoke down, making it spread near the ground, instead of allowing it to rise up and dissipate.
Quigley said he doesn’t expect a flurry of burn permits to be given out over the next few days “because they have been burning all year.”
The regulations on what you can and can’t burn are fairly strict.
The only thing that is allowed is “hand piled” vegetation, such as leaves and branches. Burning of lumber, for instance, is not allowed.
And that vegetation has to come from the property on which it is being burned. “You can’t haul it,” Quigley said. “Once it has been transported it turns into non-burnable materials,” he said.
There are different regulations for burning debris from land clearing.
Burning of trash is never allowed. To report illegal burning of garbage, call the Georgia Forestry Commission Coweta office at 770-254-7217. Phones are manned 24/7. Callers must give their names, but that information will not be released, Quigley said.
During the current burn season, there have been 13,566 burn permits issued in Coweta, Quigley said. Quigley’s office only had to respond to 19 out-of-control fires. Smaller fires are handled by the Coweta County Fire Department.
When you’re doing outdoor burning safety, of course, is key. Even a small pile of leaves can get quickly out of hand.
“Probably half of the wildfires in the state could have been stopped with a garden hose before it got to a situation where they had to call the fire department — if they had one with them,” Quigley said last fall at the start of burn season.
So always have a water hose handy. Before you start, clear an area around the fire. Ideally, the cleared area should be twice as large as the pile you intend to burn. If you’re burning in your yard and don’t want to clear out an area, keep the area around the fire wet. “It dries out in 10 minutes,” he said, so re-wet often.
And never leave the fire unattended.
It’s also a good idea to keep your cell phone on you so you can call for help.
And don’t forget that vehicles can catch fire, too.
If the fire starts to spread, first wet the ground around the fire instead of trying to attack the fire.
If the fire gets out of control, call 911— don’t waste time trying to fight a fire that you can’t put out, Quigley said.