Burn ban to be lifted Sept. 30

COVINGTON — You can start burning leaves again beginning Tuesday. The summer burn ban imposed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division ends Sept. 30.

Residents in the 54 counties where the burn ban is imposed — including Newton and Rockdale — can begin burning limbs, leaves and other yard debris the following day, if they obtain the proper permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Mike Sapp, chief ranger with the Newton-Rockdale-Henry-DeKalb GFC unit, said residents are eager to burn and are already calling the local GFC unit to get permits, though they’ll have to wait several more days. Because it’s been such a rainy summer, many mistakenly believed burning was OK, but Sapp said the ban has nothing to do with weather conditions, but is an effort to reduce air pollutants. Last year, the unit issued nearly 30,000 burn permits, with 9,769 of those in Newton and 7,635 in Rockdale, he said.

Only hand-piled natural vegetation can be burned; nothing that has been piled up by machinery can be burned, Sapp said.

Safety-wise, stay with the fire at all times, have a water source available, and use a rake or shovel to clear around the pile down to the dirt so the fire won’t spread, he said. All fires have to be completely out one hour before sunset. Fires also should not be started before 8 a.m.

Wet the pile down to make sure it is completely extinguished before leaving it, he added. Residents should also make sure to burn a safe distance away from any structures and be courteous to their neighbors and not burn near property lines, Sapp said.

Permits can be obtained online at www.gatrees.org or by calling 1-877-652-2876. The local GFC unit will be in charge of issuing permits only for 1 acre or larger burns, which can be obtained by calling 770-784-2480.

It is unlawful to burn man-made materials such as tires, shingles, plastics, lumber or household garbage. Permits are issued only for natural vegetative materials.

Burning permits are good only for the day they are issued. Those obtained after dark are good the following day.

The ban, in effect May 1 through Sept. 30, is designed to prevent the release of nitrogen oxides and particle pollution into the air, according to the EPD. Both pollutants contribute to lung and heart disease. People, particularly children, are more apt to be outdoors during May through September, and ozone and particle pollution are generally higher during this time than other times of year.