An annual burn ban was lifted in Barrow County on Tuesday, Oct. 1. However, Barrow County Emergency Services and the Georgia Forestry Commission are urging citizens to use extreme caution and follow established procedures when using fire outside.

“Georgia is currently experiencing drought conditions that makes outdoor fire conditions higher,” said BCES spokesman Capt. Scott Dakin in a news release. “Citizens must follow procedures and obtain a burn permit from Georgia Forestry each day before conducting any outdoor burning.”

"There's a five-step fire danger system used nationally, and right now Georgia is in the four and five categories, indicating very high fire danger," added Georgia Forestry Commission Chief of Protection Frank Sorrells. "The decision to burn must be made on specific weather criteria in each location, and because safety is always our top concern, burn permitting may be restricted based on the fire danger forecast.

"The GFC will resume issuing burn permits on a day to day basis, following our established fire danger and smoke management procedures, in those counties which have been under the EPD burn ban since May 1. We recognize the importance of and promote prescribed burning for the many wildfire prevention, forest management and agriculture benefits it provides. However, right now we're asking everyone to be extremely vigilant when doing any open burning, including burning yard debris.”

Wildfire activity is on the rise statewide, according to Sorrells. Over the past three months, Georgia Forestry Commission wildland firefighters have responded to 41 percent more fires than its previous five-year average. Sorrells said escaped debris burns are the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state, and it may be necessary and wise to delay or postpone open burning if local conditions are unfavorable.

The GFC recommends those who burn keep tools on hand such as water, a shovel and a cell phone.

Citizens should immediately call 911 if their controlled burn grows bigger then they can handle or starts to spread beyond their burn area.

“We have already had some grass and woods fires due to the drought conditions and want all of our citizens to help us stay safe by using caution if performing any outdoor burning,” said Dakin. “We know that burning of our leaves is part of fall in Georgia but it is not worth burning our woods and maybe even our homes just to keep that tradition.”

For specific information about conducting open burning, obtaining a burn permit or fire conditions in Barrow County, citizens can call 1-877-OK2-BURN (652-2876) or go to GaTrees.org. Outdoor fires should not be initiated before 8 a.m. and should be extinguished before dark, officials said.

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