Georgia Forestry Commission, Ogeechee District ranger David Duke said the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Liberty County is residents unintentionally allowing their yard-debris burns to get out of hand. Duke said weather conditions have been dry lately, even with a few recent light rains, and therefore homeowners should take extra care when burning residential yard debris.
Duke suggested the following five recommendations, which also can be applied to camp fires, for safely burning yard debris:
1. Develop a plan. “Think about the location of your burn. Burn in a clear area. Don’t burn debris under power lines or overhanging or (Spanish) moss-covered tree limbs. Burn far enough away from flammables.”
2. Obtain a burn permit. “Since 1988, burn permits have been required in Georgia. In the city of Hinesville, residents must go to the Hinesville Fire Department for a permit on the day
they plan to burn. This is because weather conditions can change daily. Elsewhere in Liberty County, you must get permits through us (Georgia Forestry Commission).” County residents can get permits online at www.GaTrees.org or by calling 1-877-OK2-BURN. For burns other than residential burns, call 884-3331.
3. “Make sure you’ve got all the necessary tools to keep a fire under control.” Duke said residents should have a water hose that is long enough to reach “around a fire” and one which is free of holes. Homeowners also should have a shovel or rake on hand.
4. “Never leave a burn unattended. Stay with it at all times.” Duke said even leaving a burn alone “for a moment” could invite trouble, should a sudden wind pick up and spread sparks.
5. “Always extinguish your fire when you’re finished.” Duke said a common mistake homeowners make is to underestimate the amount of heat contained in the center of a burn pile. “Even if you don’t see smoke, don’t assume the fire is out,” he said. Duke recommends residents take their hose and soak the burn pile thoroughly with water, stir up the ashes with a rake or shovel and then repeat the process.