If you went out after Christmas and burned your old wrapping paper and boxes, you broke the law -- burning any man-made items is illegal.
It is now illegal to use a burn barrel for any garbage; or burn any scrap building material including lumber.
The only thing legal to burn in Georgia backyards is natural vegetation and even this requires a permit and can’t contain limbs larger than six inches in diameter.
To put it bluntly, County Fire Marshall Curtis Clark says “Times have changed.”
And before anyone asks, Clark admits freely that he too grew up with a burn barrel at his parent’s home. Clark said what has changed are statewide pollution concerns.
All this burning is now prohibited under “Rules for Air Quality Control.”
Clark said he doesn’t ride around looking for violations but when faced with a complaint, he is duty-compelled to go to a homeowner with a burn barrel and inform him of the law and instruct him to not use it again.
Clark said the biggest source of complaints are people who he has shut down before. “You made me put mine out …,” Clark recites as the common opening line of a complaint call.
And the number of complaints is gradually on the rise, “It’s a cell phone world,” he said.
While Clark himself bemoans the additional restrictions on burning on one hand. He uses the “things have changed” law to also show the need for it. Clark points out that in our parents generation the items burned, even household trash weren’t as filled with hazardous chemicals. “We are so densely populated now and there are so many toxins in materials,” he said.
Clark said most people are cooperative once he explains the law. He generally doesn’t require any thing more than letting a fire burn itself out.
He also stressed that for those planning spring cleanups, permits from the Georgia Forestry Commission are required for any burn of leaves, twigs or yard waste. Permits can be obtained by calling the local forestry unit at 706-692-4801 or the district office at 1-887-652-2876 or online at www.gatrees.org.