ATLANTA — Changes are coming to laws affecting Georgians who burn outdoor yard debris. 

As of July 1, landowners will no longer be required to notify the Georgia Forestry Commission of their intention to burn hand-piled vegetative matter, according to a press release from the commission. However, the legal responsibilities of those burning outdoor yard debris will be strengthened. 

Under Senate Bill 119, Georgia code section 12-6-90 was changed to eliminate the notification requirement to burn hand-piled natural debris. Agriculture, silviculture and land-clearing burns for residential or commercial development will continue to require notification to the county forest ranger and a permit is still required for these activities. 

“Escaped debris burning is the number one cause of wildfire in Georgia,” said Georgia Forestry Commission Director Tim Lowrimore. “The Georgia Forestry Commission responds to more than 3,500 wildfires a year. With a strong focus on individual burning safety as required with these new changes, we can bring that number down significantly, together.” 

The Georgia Forestry Commission has launched a communication campaign emphasizing the new changes that must be taken before burning: adequate space between fire and woodlands/structures; sunrise to sunset time frame; person on site responsible until fire is extinguished; and reasonable precautions to prevent escaped fire. As always, household garbage and man-made waste products may not be burned and it is unlawful to move debris from one location to another for the purpose of burning, the press release said.

Local burning ordinances supersede the code requirements, according to the commission’s press release, but a call to the Moultrie Fire Department found the city follows the commission’s rules. 

In addition, restrictions on burning in 54 northern Georgia counties under the Environmental Protection Division summer burn ban from May 1-Sept. 30 continue to be in effect. 

Burning of debris generated by machine clearing of an area for the purpose of establishing a small garden spot or land clearing is considered a land type change. These are subject to the EPD land clearing burning rules and may require the use of an Air Curtain Destructor (ACD), depending on the county in which you live. Visit https://epd.georgia.gov/air-protection-branch/open-burning-rules-georgia for more information about that or contact the Colquitt County GFC office at (229) 891-7120.

For more information about these changes and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, go to GaTrees.org.

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