The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has instituted an open burning ban that restricts residential or commercial burning in Columbia County.
The ban, which was implemented May 1, will be enforced through Sept. 30. Campfires, agricultural activities and forestry burns are allowed.
Steve Abbot, the Georgia Forestry Commission's chief ranger for Richmond and Columbia counties, said the inaugural ban complies with the state's plan to control air quality during smog season.
"It's an air-quality issue," Abbott said, adding that the problem is not so much the risk of fire as it is the high humidity. "The air is so stagnant, and burning adds more toxic fumes and unhealthy particles into the air. Ground-level ozone levels are already high."
Anyone who burns during the ban can be penalized with a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, said Al Frazier, the district manager for East Central EPD.
"Each situation has its own particular set of circumstances surrounding it," Frazier said. "We look at the size, the duration of the event, the environmental impact, the cooperative nature of the individual, in complying with the division's request. All of that is taken into account."
Because of the burning ban's constraints, Abbott suggests residents and businesses take alternative measures such as composting, chipping, mulching, hauling to an inert landfill or stockpiling until October.
"I think (the ban) will go smoothly," he said. "It's going to take a year or two to get everybody on the same page."
For more information about the ban, call the East Central Georgia District Office at 792-7744 or the Georgia Forestry Commission at 556-3962.
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