By Macon Community News
As October begins, many Middle Georgians rejoice to see the end of the open burning ban. This ban on outdoor fires is set in place by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The Georgia EPD Burn Ban is in place in 54 of Georgia’s 159 counties, including Macon-Bibb and Houston, to help limit the amount of air pollution in and around metro-Atlanta. The ban begins annually on May 1st and ends on September 30th.
While the purpose of the burn ban is primarily environmental, it also serves a dual purpose by limiting the number of wildfires throughout the state during the summer months when conditions are ripe for forest fires. As the EPD Burn Ban comes to a swift end, so begins open fire season statewide.
The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC), headquartered in Macon, plays a vital role in watching for and responding to wildfires that can be caused by a variety of factors, including open burning.
The Macon headquarters on Riggins Mill Road houses the majority of the offices for the Forestry Commission. The site plays host to one of Georgia’s two GFC dispatch offices, which are responsible for dispatching forestry resources to wildfires. The GFC dispatch office also issues burn permits throughout the state.
Although GFC is headquartered in Macon, it also maintains numerous smaller offices throughout the state that are staffed with highly-trained rangers and wildland fire-fighters. These outposts are also equipped with a large selection of wildland fire-fighting equipment such as bulldozers, water-trucks, tractors, and plows, as well as handheld tools.
Wildfires can be caused by a variety of factors, both natural and man-made. Poorly controlled open burning of household trash and yard waste poses a risk of igniting surrounding wildlands, especially during hotter, drier summer months. Other heat sources can also cause wildfires, including unextinguished cigarette butts and campfires. A little-known source of fires, especially along Georgia’s interstates, is sparking from metal chains dragging along the roadway, such as when a passenger vehicle is hauling an RV or boat trailer, and chain links drag down below the tow hitch.
Only three things must be present for a wildfire to start: oxygen, heat, and fuel. All throughout the year, the Georgia Forestry Commission assists landowners in performing controlled burns (also known as prescribed burns) which reduce the amount of available fuel on their land that can contribute to wildfires. This is also known as hazard reduction, and it aims to minimize fuel sources such as dried leaves, underbrush, and fallen limbs. However, although these preemptive measures are taken, there is still abundant fuel throughout the state to feed a wildfire. This is why it is vital for each landowner to do their part in preventing uncontrolled fires.
Middle Georgians have excellent resources for wildland management and wildfire prevention, like the Georgia Forestry Commission and our local fire departments. Alone, these resources cannot monitor and maintain the state in its entirety. It is crucial that every citizen plays a role in watching for signs of wildfires and conditions in which a wildfire could easily occur. Examples of conditions conducive to the formation of wildfires include unattended outdoor fires, chemicals that were not properly stored or disposed of, and trees or vegetation that touch or are close to touching power lines.
Each person can also help prevent wildfires by properly disposing of cigarette butts, never leaving a fire unattended, and always making sure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving it. Properly maintain connections for your trailers and RVs. Consider alternatives to the open burning of household trash, such as composting and recycling. Similarly, there are options for disposing of yard waste, including mulching, chipping, and municipal disposal, where it is available. When open burning is the best option, be mindful of wind conditions and take safety precautions to prepare for containment of the fire.
If each Georgian does their part in watching for and preventing wildfires, this could be the safest fire season yet! For more information on the Georgia Forestry Commission or to find out what additional resources are available, visit their website at gatrees.org. Likewise, for more information on the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, visit their website at epd.georgia.gov. Please consult your local ordinances, state law, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and/or the Environmental Protection Division before you burn.