Monday, April 25, 2011

Georgia Forestry Commission Urges Prevention in Wake of South Georgia Wildfires

Georgia Forestry Commission crews have successfully contained fires in south Georgia, where tens of thousands of acres have been scorched since early March. Recent rainfall helped firefighters gain the upper hand on the blazes, which had prompted a weekend restriction on outdoor burning throughout the state. Firefighting resources are now being released to their home districts, and the Georgia Forestry Commission is again issuing burn permits when local weather conditions allow.

Burn restrictions were lifted April 1, 2011,  in the GFC Ogeechee District (Wilcox, Pulaski, Bleckley, Laurens, Dodge, Telfair, Wheeler, Treutlen, Montgomery, Emanuel, Toombs, Tattnall, Evans, Candler, Jenkins, Screven, Effingham, Bulloch, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Bryan and Chatham counties), with the exception of Long County, where permits will not be issued until further notice. The GFC Satilla District (Jeff Davis, Appling, Wayne, Glynn, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Ware, Atkinson, Berrien, Lanier, Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties) has extended the restriction on permits for outdoor burning at least through Monday, April 4, when conditions will be reevaluated.

Despite the rain's temporary relief, fire authorities say a severe drought is expected to persist this summer, raising the risk of wildfire and posing a threat to property and lives.

"Now is the time to take steps to protect your home from fire," said Troy Floyd, Incident Management Team Commander of the Georgia Forestry Commission. "Getting a burn permit for any outdoor debris burning is an absolute must, but there are actions residents can take around the home to minimize damage from wildfire."

Cleaning flammable materials from a 30-feet barrier around the home is extremely important, according to Floyd.

"Homeowners should break the chain of ignition from the forest to the home," he said. "That includes clearing yard debris and firewood and moving gas tanks. Pine and leaf litter should be removed from roofs, gutters and eaves regularly."

Floyd said water is an obvious tool to have close by, and recommending that hoses with faucets be installed on each side of the home. Other tools comprising an emergency kit include a rake, shovel, bucket, garden hose, axe and a ladder that will reach the roof.

Floyd said summer staples such as barbecue grills and lawnmowers are also possible sources of ignition and should be used carefully, especially in times of drought.

"The number one cause of wildfire is escaped debris burning," said Floyd. "When weather conditions are appropriate, burn permits for hand piled natural vegetation are issued online at GaTrees.org." Permits for machine piled or area burns can be obtained by contacting a local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission, he said.

"Our number one concern is for the protection of people and property from wildfires," said Floyd. "We depend on the cooperation of every Georgian to make that happen."

For more information about fire safety and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org.

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