By Jason A. Smith
The Georgia Forestry Commission will begin issuing permits for residents to burn items on their property again.
The burning ban is scheduled to be lifted, Friday, for 54 counties in Georgia, including Henry and Clayton. The annual ban has been in place since May 1, according to Mike Sapp, the Forestry Commission's chief ranger for Henry, DeKalb, Newton and Rockdale counties.
"It's to comply with federal clean-air regulations, that help to manage the summertime surge in unhealthy ozone levels," Sapp said. "The only material you're allowed to burn, is natural vegetation -- limbs, leaves and yard debris."
Henry County Fire Department Interim Chief Bill Lacy emphasized the need for residents to be mindful of established laws for burning.
"Basically, they need to follow the guidelines on the Georgia Forestry web site," Lacy said. "You must be burning at least 100 feet from a structure, and you can only burn between 10 a.m., and 6 p.m."
He added that, for burning to be allowed, winds must be less than 12 miles per hour, and skies must not be overcast.
Residents, Sapp continued, must obtain a permit, at no charge, for each day they wish to burn items. Burn permits are available online at the Commission's web site -- www.gatrees.org -- or by calling the agency's automated telephone system at 1-877-652-2876, he said.
"We are encouraging people to use the Internet if at all possible, because the automated system can be busy during heavy-volume days, such as the beginning of [the] burn season," Sapp said.
The chief ranger explained that the burn ban was instituted in 1996 in Georgia, and is mandated by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The ranger added that individuals seeking permits for controlled acreage burns, must call the GFC at (770) 784-2480.