The statewide ban on outdoor burning ends Monday, just in time for falling leaves.
But just because outdoor burning is allowed, that doesn’t necessarily make it safe, officials say.
Recent rains lessened, but didn’t eliminate, the area’s drought conditions, George Forestry Commission Chief Ranger Larry Felix said.
“It’s not as severe, but we are still below average for rainfall,” said Felix, who oversees the Columbia and Richmond County forestry units. “We want everyone to be safe when they do burn.”
When the five-month ban ends, Felix said he expects the forestry commission to issue a large number of burn permits.
The permit allows residents to burn hand-piled vegetation and lawn debris, including limbs, leaves and pine straw. Burning man-made materials – tires, shingles and plastics – is not allowed.
All fires must be extinguished before sundown, Felix said.
Permits are available by calling 1 (877) OK-2-BURN (652-2876) or by visiting www.gatrees.org.
If someone is caught burning without a permit, they could get a citation.
If an unpermitted fire gets out of control, the homeowner could be liable for fire suppression charges.
In Richmond County, an ordinance requires residents to burn at least 100 feet from any structure. It is recommended in Columbia County, Felix said.
Anyone opting to burn yard debris should have a water hose and shovel handy to control the fire.
Felix said residents should prepare the burn site by raking it, clearing it of debris and wetting the ground.
“If they rake around it then wet around it, (the fire) has got less chance of getting away from them,” Felix said.
Even though burning is allowed, Felix said he recommends mulching or composting debris or taking it to an inert landfill. He said it is best not to burn large limbs or large amounts of debris.
Residents will be asked to extinguish fires, even if properly permitted, if neighbors complain, Felix said.