Burn ban will be lifted Oct. 1

COVINGTON -- A burn ban imposed since spring will be lifted for 54 Georgia counties, including Rockdale and Newton, on Oct. 1.

On that date, residents will be free to burn natural, hand-piled vegetation, provided they obtain a permit and follow a few safety rules.

The Georgia Forestry Commission has implemented a new burn permitting system that can be accessed at www.GaTrees.org. The system will allow users to instantly receive a burn permit when conditions in their communities are safe.

"Fifty-four counties, mostly in north Georgia, will have burn bans lifted that are imposed every year by the state Environmental Protection Division to comply with federal clean air regulations," said Alan Dozier, chief of forest protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. "Open burning has been restricted in those areas since May to help manage the summertime surge in unhealthy ozone levels. Those counties now join the rest of Georgia in having access to a simple new system that makes outdoor burning easier to conduct."

The new 24-hour burn permitting system allows users to click through an online template that analyzes weather conditions, records user requests and issues a numbered permit for that day. Permits issued after dark are valid the following day. Residents who want to phone in their requests may still call 1-877-OK2-BURN (1-877-652-2876).

The GFC's DeKalb-Henry-Newton-Rockdale Unit will no longer issue permits -- instead residents need to use the website or phone line -- said Chief Ranger Mike Sapp.

"We really need them to do that. We will not be issuing permits out of our office except for acreage burns. For small yard debris piles, we require them to use the automated phone system or online system. The automated phone system has been real busy some days; especially during the beginning of the burn period, it can stay busy for a long time. There will never be any delay if you go online and get one," Sapp said.

The new online system will save time for customers who use the same computer to request permits. The system remembers the customer and pulls up previously entered data.

Permits are required for burning natural vegetation, including leaf piles and debris from storm damage, as well as for weed abatement, disease or pest prevention. It is illegal to burn man-made materials such as tires, shingles, plastic and lumber.

Sapp recommended raking around the burn pile and wetting the surrounding grass to keep the fire contained. Fires should never be left unattended and should be extinguished completely one hour before dark, he said.

"Just because we issue the permits doesn't mean we're responsible for the fire. They're responsible for their fire and their smoke," Sapp said. Those burning illegally are subject to suppression charges should the fire get out of control.

For more information regarding outdoor burning, call 770-784-2480.