Fire officials encourage safe burning practices

It’s “OK-2-BURN” this month

Authorities caution residents to be mindful of potential hazards associated with outdoor burning.

Officials with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division lifted the metro-wide burning ban on Oct. 1, noting the annual mandate will resume May 1, 2012.

Although residential burning is permitted, there is a nuisance ordinance that could become a factor in any given area, according to Henry County Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett.

Puckett urges residents to adhere to the amended ordinance, dated Sept. 17, 2002, in the Code of Henry County, which no longer requires citizens to obtain a residential burning permit from the Henry County Fire Department. However, she said, it does require citizens to obtain a daily or annual permit through the Georgia Forestry Commission. Violators of the Burning Ordinance are subject to a fine of up $1,000 per day, per violation, or 60 days in jail, or both.

The fire captain listed options for obtaining a residential burning permit. They include calling 1-877-OK-2-BURN (1-877-652-2876), or visiting an online permitting system at www.gatrees.org.

Puckett added that residents should call the District Office for a permit, at (770) 784-2480, for acreage burns. She said commercial burning still requires a permit from the Henry County Fire Department and a fee of $100. Residential and commercial burning will be permitted Oct. 1, 2011, through April 30, 2012, and will be prohibited at all other times.

In the event of extreme weather conditions, such as high winds and prolonged drought, the fire department or the Forestry Commission may cancel burning in order to provide for the safety of the public.

Weather conditions lately have been ripe for potential fire hazards, according to recent weather and drought reports. Drought conditions around the state are no better than they were this time last year, but are much improved from this past summer, according to the latest numbers from the National Drought Mitigation Center’s U.S. Drought Monitor report.

The report indicates that no part of Georgia presently is experiencing exceptional drought. Although more than 41 percent of the state’s land mass had been enveloped by exceptional drought conditions in June and July. Most of the state, now, is gripped by the lesser designation of extreme drought.

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City, reported that rainfall amounts continue to lag behind the norm in the region. Rainfall was less than half the norm for the month of September, and has been about half the average rainfall in metro Atlanta since July.

As dry conditions envelop the state, residents are advised to follow residential burning rules and guidelines in order to prevent potential wildfires.

Capt. Puckett listed them as follows: residential burning is for natural debris such as tree limbs from storm damage, leaves, and grass cuttings; clearing of lots for building of structures requires a commercial permit; no burning of stumps or whole trees; no more than one pile, six-by-six feet long, and five feet high at a time; and no burning of construction/building material, household garbage, tires, paints, roofing materials, plastics, or other materials that produce toxic gases or obnoxious odors.

Puckett pointed out that the number one cause of wildfires in Georgia is burning debris. That is caused by humans and humans can prevent wildfires by using safe practices when burning outdoor debris.

“Many of these wildfires could be prevented, if everyone would follow the rules for outdoor burning and never leave their fire unattended,” said Puckett.

She said there is no burning permitted before 10 a.m., or after dark, or on Sunday’s. Commercial permits can be obtained at the Henry County Fire Department Headquarters, located at 110 South Zack Hinton Parkway in McDonough. For more information, contact the Henry County Fire Department at (770) 288-6600.