GFC makes changes to burn permits

Published 9:43 am Monday, October 4, 2021

Tuesday evening saw the Decatur County Commissioners gather for their second meeting of the month. Bryan Cottles with the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) delivered the annual Forestry Report, one of the more notable items being changes to Georgia’s burn permit system, namely, no longer requiring people to notify GFC of intentions to burn piles of leaves or natural yard debris (man-made trash and lumber of any kind does not qualify.)

There are still guidelines and restrictions as part of this change in the law. They are as follows: There must be at least 25 feet between the fire and woodlands; there must be at least 50 feet between the fire and structures; the fire must burn during daylight hours, between sunrise and sunset; the person responsible must stay onsite with the fire until it is totally extinguished and cannot escape; and reasonable precautions must be taken, such as having a continuous source of pressurized water on site, having a man-made or natural barrier present to contain the fire, having hand tools or fire-containing equipment available, etc.

These changes in regulation do not apply to agriculture burns, silviculture, large or man-made debris piles or land-clearing burns; GFC notification and a permit are still required for these.

In an FAQ put out by the GFC, the reason for the change in regulation was explained as: “Escaped leaf pile and yard debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in Georgia. In an effort to reduce the number of unwanted fires and to protect Georgia’s valuable forest resources, homes and structures, establishing best practice requirements when burning yard debris is a responsible way for homeowners and citizens to continue to burn.”

The changes went into effect on July 1, however, Cottles stated some may not know the full extent of the restrictions. “When you call into the automated line, it tells you that you no longer need a permit, but you need to listen on to the guidelines, follow all the way through the conversations,” he said. “Because that’s what a lot of people are doing now, they’re just calling in, hearing you don’t have to have a permit anymore, and they don’t listen to what the guidelines are.” According to Cottles, should a person not follow the guidelines listed above, this could be a citable offense.

For further details on said guidelines, as well as more information on burning permits, visit https://gatrees.org/burn-permits-and-notifications/