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Posted: April 29, 2014 8:32 p.m.

Outdoor burn ban begins May 1

Georgian’s are being asked not to add to the expected summer heat and air quality during the coming months, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC).

Newton and Rockdale counties are two of 54 counties in the northern half of the state that are expected to follow the annual ban on burning yard and land-clearing debris beginning Thursday, May 1, and remaining in effect until Tuesday, Sept. 30. The ban is required by the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to minimize high ozone levels.

“That’s when the air is typically hot and stagnant, and particulate matter may influence air quality in Georgia’s most populated areas,” said GFC Chief of Protection Frank Sorrells.

Sorrells said the long-range forecast shows a hot summer with predicted near-normal rainfall amounts. Health experts say elevated ozone and particulate matter can contribute to breathing issues, watery eyes and lung and heart disease, according to a GFC press release.

Ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides react in the presence of sunlight, according to the EPD Air Protection Branch website, and open burning has been identified as a significant contributor of the pollutants that form ozone.

“Georgians can still enjoy their campfires and backyard barbecues this summer,” Sorrells said, “but vigilance is always needed any time fires are lit outdoors.”

The burn ban applies to the following counties: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Columbia, Coweta, Crawford, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Putnam, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Twiggs, Upson, Walker and Walton.

Residents who live in counties not included in the burn ban must secure a burn permit from the GFC before conducting any outside burning.

The GFC press release stated the agency reports escaped flames are Georgia’s leading cause of wildfire and that it responds to, and contains, more than 30,000 acres of wildfire across the state each year.

“Summers are made for fun, not wildfires. Together we can make that happen,” Sorrells said.

The agency recommends having fire suppression tools, whether a resident lives in the counties included in the ban or not, such as water and rakes on hand anytime an outdoor fire is lit, along with a phone to call 9-1-1, if necessary.

For more information about annual summer burn restrictions, GFC services or to request a burn permit, visit www.GaTrees.org. Permits can also be requested by calling the local office of the GFC. If conditions are safe for burning, permits will be automatically granted.

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