Beginning May 1, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) open burning ban will be in effect for 54 Georgia counties. The open burning ban has been in place during the summer ozone season since 2005.
The ban prohibits citizens and businesses from burning yard and land-clearing debris during the summer ozone season, which runs from May 1 through September 30. This is in addition to the rule that prohibits the burning of household garbage. Burning household garbage is never allowed anywhere in Georgia. Recreational activities such as campfires and grilling are exempt from the open burning ban.
“We typically see air quality issues in Georgia during the summer because the hot weather helps to create ground-level ozone,” said Karen Hays, Chief of the EPD Air Protection Branch. “Ozone pollution can cause inflammation of the lungs and can lead to other health-related issues. Smoke from fires contains fine particles that can aggravate asthma and chronic heart diseases.”
Citizens can access more information on the open burning ban by visiting https://epd.georgia.gov/air-protection-branch/open-burning-rules-georgia, or by calling the EPD District Office serving their area.
Counties included in the ban and contact information for the corresponding EPD District Office are as follows:
- Mountain District Office (Atlanta): 404-362-2671 Carroll, Clayton, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Henry, Rockdale, and Spalding counties.
- Northeast District Office (Athens): 706-369-6376 Banks, Barrow, Butts, Clarke, Hall, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Putnam, and Walton counties.
- East Central District Office (Augusta): 706-667-4343 Columbia and Richmond counties.
- West Central District Office (Macon): 478-751-6612 Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Lamar, Monroe, Peach, Pike, Twiggs, Upson, Meriwether, and Troup counties.
- Mountain District Office (Cartersville): 770-387-4900 Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb, Dawson, Floyd, Forsyth, Gordon, Haralson, Lumpkin, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, and Walker counties.
For more information about alternatives to burning, such as composting and chipping, please visit https://epd.georgia.gov/air-protection-branch/open-burning-rules-georgia/alternatives-burning.
Debris can also be hauled to a commercial processing/grinding/composting operation or to an inert or construction and demolition landfill. For a list of landfills in your area, please call EPD’s Solid Waste Management Program at 404-362-2692 and/or visit the Land Protection Branch website for more details: http://epd.georgia.gov/land-protection-branch.
Some Georgia counties and cities have burning restrictions that are more stringent than the EPD open burning ban. EPD recommends that citizens check with their local Fire Marshall before conducting any burning.
Open Burning After the Burn Ban Ends
For citizens seeking to burn hand-piled, natural vegetation collected onsite (e.g., yard debris and leaf piles) after the EPD open burning ban concludes, the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) no longer requires permits for this activity. Instead, the following five safety precautions are required:
- Burn location must be no less than 25 feet from any woodlands, forestland or field that contains brush, grass, or other flammable material.
- Burn location must be no less than 50 feet from structures, which includes homes, outbuildings, sheds, and barns.
- Burning must take place between sunrise and sunset.
- Person responsible must attend burning at all times until the fire is completely extinguished and there is no risk for burning to escape control.
- Person responsible must take reasonable and necessary precautions to prevent fire escape or spread from the original location.
GFC Permits for any other types of burning (e.g., silviculture, agriculture, and land-clearing) should be obtained by contacting your county GFC office. You can find your county GFC office here: https://gatrees.org/about/county-contacts/.