Burn ban starts again

CONYERS -- Residents are reminded they will soon be restricted from burning outdoor yard waste.

Starting Saturday, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will issue its Open Burning Ban that will prohibit residents and businesses from burning outdoor yard and land-clearing debris.

The burn ban is an effort to improve air quality by reducing smog levels.

Rockdale County Fire Department Deputy Chief Mike Lee said Rockdale's increased population makes the outdoor burning regulation a local need.

"It is needed. We got an awful more folks than what we used to have," Lee said.

The ban is in effect from Saturday through Sept. 30. Georgia EPD said in a recent press release that the burn ban is enforced during smog season "when levels of particle pollution and ozone are highest." The pollution can contribute to lung and heart disease.

"Besides the obvious effects of smoke on the human body, such as watery eyes, smoke from fires contains chemicals and pollutants that negatively impact a person's health," read the press release.

"It's not so much as it's a burning problem as it's an air pollution problem," Lee said. "So the ban in the burning is just a way to keep the air clean, especially during the summer when it's so hot and keeps everything locked in."

Newton County Fire Service Department Chief Mike Satterfield also pointed out that the burn ban is also the time when more windows are open and there is greater exposure to smoke from outdoor burning.

"We do see less complaints after the burn ban (is put in effect)," Satterfield said.

Satterfield offered alternatives to burning yard waste during the burn ban period.

"What we see a great deal of is chipping," Satterfield said. "We do see quite a bit of that even when burn permits are available."

Chipping is clean and easy for landscaping, said Satterfield. Mulch, the end product from chipping, can be reused.

"We strongly suggest to recycle as much as humanly possible," Lee added, suggesting yard waste be taken to the recycle center or made into compost.

Satterfield said those who do not comply will be issued a citation in some cases.

Outdoor burning will be allowed under certain circumstances, said Satterfield, such as an outdoor cooking fire, an outdoor warming fire or a fire needed for construction crews.

Lee said that even during the allowed burning times there have been incidents where fires have developed. This usually happens when a fire is not completely extinguished or the person is not paying complete attention, according to Lee.

"There have been a few small sheds that have burned down ... that kind of thing," Lee said.

Newton's chief said there have been scattered incidents, as well.

"We have a few fires that would get out of control but for the most part people are very conscious about outdoor burning and they try to keep it under control," Satterfield added.

With the statewide ban in effect for its 14th year, Satterfield and Lee agreed that most people are aware of it and prepare accordingly.

The Georgia EPD Open Burning Ban started in 1996 as a way to reduce air pollution attributed to growth and development. Only 13 metro-Atlanta counties were initially included in the ban. Restrictions are now in place for 54 Georgia counties.