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Burn ban ends Oct. 1

COVINGTON - The summer burn ban comes to a close on Sept. 30, and the Newton-Rockdale unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission will begin issuing burn permits on Oct. 1.

Residents will be allowed to burn yard debris, such as natural vegetation, limbs, leaves and yard clippings, by obtaining a free permit from the Forestry Commission.

"We are trying to make it as easy as possible to get a permit," said Chief Ranger Mike Sapp.

Residents can obtain permits by visiting www.gatrees.org, calling 1-877-652-2876 or calling the local office at 770-784-2480.

Burning is allowed from 8 a.m. until one hour before dark, seven days a week.

Residents are permitted to burn one pile of vegetation measuring 6 feet by 6 feet per day.

The Forestry Commission will not issue permits when it is cloudy or raining because the smoke does not dissipate and can cause problems for neighbors or passing motorists, Sapp said.

Sapp recommended raking around the burn pile to keep it contained and having a garden hose at the ready if the fire should get out of control. Burning should not be done on very windy days or when the humidity is low, he said. Most importantly, never leave the fire unattended.

Sapp said there have been many cases where people have gone inside to eat lunch or take a nap and the fire spreads.

If that happens to someone who has obtained the proper permit, the Forestry Commission will come out and suppress the fire free of charge. However, if the person does not have a permit, he or she will be charged for fire suppression costs, which can run as high as several hundred dollars, Sapp said.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division implements a 54-county burn ban during the summer to comply with federal clean air regulations. During the summer months in Georgia, the ozone in the air can reach unhealthy levels. The Georgia EPD has identified open burning as a significant contributor of the pollutants that form ozone. The ban runs May 1 through Sept. 30.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.