By Jason A. Smith
Henry and Clayton counties are among 54 counties in Georgia now under an outdoor burning ban.
The annual ban was placed into effect Saturday, by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division. The ban prohibits outdoor burning of yard or land-clearing debris through Sept. 30.
The purpose of the ban is to improve air quality in Georgia, according to Mike Sapp, the Georgia Forestry Commission's chief ranger for Henry, DeKalb, Newton and Rockdale counties.
"During the hot summer months, the air is more stagnant," Sapp said. "In the winter time, smoke dissipates better. Atlanta has a hard time meeting federal air-quality standards with all the traffic we have here. That's why we have a burn ban."
Additional counties which are under the ban include: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Cobb, Columbia, Coweta, Crawford, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Putnam, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Twiggs, Upson, Walker and Walton.
The ban, according to Sapp, began on a yearly basis in Georgia in the early 1990s.
In a statement released recently by the Forestry Commission, Alan Dozier, the agency's chief of Forestry Protection, said ozone levels in Georgia "rise to unhealthy levels" in the summer.
"Most types of open burning are restricted during the ban, in an effort to manage the summertime surge in ozone levels," Dozier said.
For more details, call the Forestry Commission at (770) 784-2480, or visit www.gatrees.org.