Fire safety tips
Once you burn your pile, soak the ground around the pile with water. Put dirt and water on the pile. Stir it and soak it again with water. Do this about 3 times.
Practice the good neighbor policy. Just because you have a burn permit don’t smoke out your neighbors.
When children are on summer break, put up materials that can be ignited, like lighters and matches.
Do not consume alcohol while burning
Burns must be attended by people 18 years old or older. Never leave a fire unattended.
If there is smoke, there is fire. Smoke is a product of incomplete combustion.
Since January there have been more than 70 fires in and near Liberty County, according the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Hodges.
He called it a “rash of burns” for such a short time.
“A lot of the burns were caused by homeowners, and because we’re getting to a season now with dry air weather, it can escalate,” Hodges said. “People need to be cautious about when they do burn and make sure that they do it legally.”
The Coastal Courier met with fire department chiefs from the county at the Georgia Forestry Commission office, 1203 South Coastal Highway, to talk about fire safety and burning.
Chief Ranger David Duke of the Liberty County GFC said Georgia requires a burn permit for any outdoor fires and must be issued the day of the burning. Burn permits are required for all vegetation that is piled together by hand, which includes yard debris, even from storm damage. Man-made materials, such as lumber, tires, household garbage, and anything that is produced, are illegal to burn. Duke said if someone is doing an agricultural burn in a field, a permit is not required, but his office must be notified. Burn permits are issued based on that day’s weather. Residents can get a permit online or through an automated permit system.
Hinesville Fire Department Deputy Chief Kris Johanson said the city’s burn ordinance is similar to the state statute. A Hinesville resident can get a permit online with the Hinesville Fire Department or stop by the station. Johanson said people make the mistake of trying to get a burn permit in the city, when they the live outside the city. Residents outside of Hinesville must get a permit from the Forestry Commission.
Contractors who want to do a commercial burn in Hinesville must go to the fire department to apply. There is a $250 fee and a pit inspection will be conducted.
“One of the biggest problems we have in the city is the guys and ladies who do construction, will build small fires in their driveways to keep warm, burning 2x4s or whatever construction waste there is, and that’s illegal in the city of Hinesville,” Johanson said.
Hinesville residents without a permit can be fined up to $60 and contractors without a permit can be fined $1,000.
Duke said contractors in the rural areas do not have to get commercial burn permits with his department. Those permits are issued by the Environmental Protection Division but the contractor must notify the local commission everyday they burn.
Walthourville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Terry Satterfield said Walthourville residents must get a burn permit from GFC, with the exception of commercial burns. A commercial burn permit must be obtain from his department and there will be a pit inspection. Satterfield said that all fires must be put out at dark.
Station 15 (Gum Branch) Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Scoggins, said people need to practice fire safety because it takes 15 to 20 minutes for a firetruck to arrive after receiving a call.
“Being a volunteer department, I might only have two guys to go out there on one truck when I might need 10 trucks,” Scoggins said. “It takes dispatch a couple of minutes to process the information, get it out to us, then we have to go from our house, from our second job or first job to the station to pick up the truck, then go to the scene. By that time we’re already behind the ball, and that goes for house fires too.”
Prescribed burns are fires that reduce excessive amounts of brush, shrubs and trees. The burn allows for new growth and maintenance of native species. Land owners must also get a burn permit for a prescribed burn.
“When people are prescribe burning safely, they are loosening the intensity of an occurrence of wild fires because if you don’t burn off your woods and all that undergrowth grows up, when you do have that wildfire it is almost impossible to catch (to put out).” Duke said.
The number one cause of wildfires in Georgia is escape debris burning, Duke said, mostly by people burning in their yards without a burn permit.
For more information on burn permits for the City of Hinesville visit, www.cityofhinesville.org, scroll down under Departments for the Fire Department and click Burn Permits, or call 876-4143.
For a burning permit in Liberty County, outside of Hinesville, visit www.gatress.org, or call 1-877-OK2BURN.