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BCES calls for “behavior modification” to prevent wildfires

Barrow County residents are taking advantage of nice weather and trying to beat the May 1st statewide burn ban to burn their debris and other materials, says Lt. Blair Dunst of Barrow County Emergency Services. BCES has fought 40 wildfires in the past three months and those numbers will continue to rise until what Lt. Dunst calls “behavior modification” occurs.

Three wildfires have scorched land on Old Hog Mountain Road in Barrow County since mid-February. One burned almost five acres of property and damaged a neighbor’s property. A second wildfire started across the street from the first. A third caught down the road and burned two acres of land, nearly igniting the property owner’s home.

All three of these fires were within a mile of each other. They are only a few examples of what the service says is a county-wide problem, especially in rural areas. Officer Steven Rose, a BCES firefighter, says the biggest culprit of the out-of-control fires is a dangerous mixture of wind and unpermitted burning.

Officer Rose has fought the fires first-hand. “It’s a small fire and they think it’s ok to be doing this. But the problem is, when the wind kicks up, it can blow embers somewhere where they didn’t intend it to go and start other fires,” he says.

The Georgia Forestry Commission issues burn permits on a day-by-day basis depending on whether or not conditions are safe for burning. The ideal day to get a burn permit has high humidity, low winds, recent rain, and relatively little cloud cover, says GFC Barrow Chief Ranger Payton Turner.

Permitted fires can still get out of control, but a permit prevents the property owner from being subject to certain fines and potential litigation. “Accidents happen. That burn permit, as long as you’re burning natural debris and no illegal materials, that burn permit covers you,” says Turner.

Georgia’s Open Burning Ban goes into effect on May 1 and continues until September 30. To find out if the burn ban applies to your county and for more information on getting a burn permit, visit http://www.gfc.state.ga.us.

By: Casey Rose

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