Wild fires increase in Newton County since the lifting of the ban on outdoor burning

COVINGTON -- Watch those fires, folks! That's the message from the Newton County Fire Service which is reporting that brush fires are on the rise after the Burn Ban was lifted little more than three weeks ago.

"Newton County has had nine 'wild land' (brush, grass, woods) fires that were out of control since the Burn Ban was lifted on Oct. 1 for outdoor burning," said NCFS Lt. Cydnie Taylor. "These incidents encompass non-compliance with local regulations, burning in unsafe areas, not remaining at burning site during the burn, failure to extinguish fire after nightfall and youths misusing fire."

Taylor said it is essential to call the Georgia Forestry Commission for burn permits and information about legal and safe burning procedures. Permits are issued daily based on weather and other conditions. Their number is 1-877-OK2-BURN or 1-877-652-2876.

Taylor also gave a list of tips for safely burning debris:

-- Comply with local regulations (in the case of Newton County residents, they must contact the GFC for a burn permit).

-- Check the weather forecast as fluctuations, such as sudden gusts of wind, could make debris burning spark a wildfire.

-- Choose a safe burning site, far away from power lines, overhanging limbs, buildings, automobiles and equipment. It is necessary to have vertical clearance of at least three times as high as the debris to be burned as heat from the fire extends far past the actual flames that are visible. The horizontal clearance should be twice as wide as the debris pile is tall.

-- Prepare the site correctly by placing gravel or dirt for at least 10 feet in all directions and keeping it watered down during the burn.

-- If using a burn barrel, make sure it is equipped properly and adequate for the job. It should be of all-metal construction in good condition (no rust on the sides or bottom) and properly ventilated with three evenly-spaced, 3-inch square vents around the rim near ground level. Each vent should be backed by a metal screen and have a top screen of metal mesh with holes no larger than a quarter of an inch. When burning, layer the different types of debris and stir often, being careful of sparks that might escape.

-- Remain with your fire until it is completely out. To ensure the fire has been completely extinguished, drown the fire with water, turn over the ashes with a shovel and drown it again. Repeat several times. Check the burn area regularly over the next several days and up to several weeks following the burn, especially if the weather is warm, dry and windy.

-- Keep it legal. It is illegal to burn plastic, tires, household garbage and most other waste products not from a tree or shrub.