GEORGIA — Though burning leaf piles and campfires are hallmarks of fall, Georgia’s current drought should make residents pause before they decide to burn outdoors. 

The Georgia Forestry Commission is urging everyone to follow established procedures and exercise extreme caution when using fire outside.

“There’s a five-step fire danger system used nationally, and right now Georgia is in the four and five categories, indicating very high fire danger,” Georgia Forestry Commission Chief of Protection Frank Sorrells said. 

Burn permits issued by the Georgia Forestry Commission are required for any outdoor burning in the state to help prevent wildfires and problems generated by smoke. In 54 counties, primarily in north Georgia, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division sets annual summer burning restrictions to reduce emissions from ground level ozone that may jeopardize air quality. 

Those restrictions were lifted on Tuesday, October 1.

“The GFC will resume issuing burn permits on a day-to-day basis, following our established fire danger and smoke management procedures, in those counties which have been under the EPD Burn Ban since May 1,” Sorrells said. 

“We recognize the importance of and promote prescribed burning for the many wildfire prevention, forest management and agriculture benefits it provides. However, right now we’re asking everyone to be extremely vigilant when doing any open burning, including burning yard debris,” he continued.

Wildfire activity is on the rise statewide, Sorrells said. Over the past three months, Georgia Forestry Commission wildland firefighters have responded to 41 percent more fires than its previous five-year average. 

Sorrells said escaped debris burns are the number one cause of wildfires in our state, and it may be necessary and wise to delay or postpone open burning if local conditions are unfavorable. The GFC recommends those who burn keep tools on hand such as water, a shovel and a cell phone.

“Never hesitate to call 911, and never leave your fire unattended” Sorrells said.

DeKalb, Forsyth and Fulton were among the 54 counties whose summer burn bans were lifted.

For specific information about conducting open burning, permitting requirements and current fire conditions in your area, contact your county’s GFC office or visit GaTrees.org.

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