Since the ban on outdoor burning was lifted Oct. 1, the Georgia Forestry Commission has stayed busy issuing permits for residents to burn leaves, pine straw and limbs.
"Opening day, we were slammed," said Steve Abbott, chief ranger senior for the Columbia-Richmond County Unit of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
But the forestry commission has recently introduced another way to obtain the permits required for residential burning.
"The newest things is we have just launched a new toll-free burning hot line," Abbott said.
The toll-free line, (877) OK2-BURN ((877) 652-2876), and the forestry commission Web site, www.gatrees.org, make it easy for residents statewide to obtain a daily or annual permit and to check weather conditions and fire hazards.
"That's what we are trying to do, (make the process easy)," Abbott said.
Both the Web site and the phone number provide current weather conditions and how they relate to outdoor burning. And if conditions are not right, residents won't get a permit.
"Basically when the conditions are not right, we won't put (the phone system) on," Abbott said, adding that high fire danger includes high winds, low humidity, dry conditions and poor air quality or smoke dispersion.
Abbott said the toll-free line is available to residents in Columbia and Richmond counties and statewide.
"This is primarily for people who don't have computers," Abbott said.
The ban on burning lawn waste was instituted statewide to reduce the formation of dangerous ozone during the hot summer months. Ozone is formed when volatile organics and chemicals combine and react in the presence of sunlight. The ban was lifted Oct. 1 after five months.
Permits are required for residents to burn leaves and limbs from their own property. If a homeowner without a permit loses control of a fire and needs assistance from the forestry commission or fire department, that person will be charged for costs associated with putting out the fire. It also is a misdemeanor to burn without a permit and could result in a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
Tucker said the open burning rules for residents of Grovetown and Harlem are slightly different. Homeowners must call their city fire department for permission to burn in addition to obtaining a burn permit from the forestry commission, Tucker said. Fires must be extinguished by 7 p.m., regardless of when dusk occurs.
The Grovetown Department of Public Safety can be reached at 863-1212, and the Harlem Department of Public Safety can be reached at 556-6262.
Tucker said county officials are looking at additional bans on outdoor burning in residential neighborhoods. Richmond County's ordinance prohibits burning within 100 feet of residential structures, Tucker said.
For more information or to obtain a permit, Columbia County residents can call 556-3962.
Richmond County residents should call 771-4962.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.