Burn ban begins May 1 for much of Middle Georgia

Time is running out to burn yard waste in Macon, Warner Robins and much of the midstate.

The annual burn ban for 54 Georgia counties begins Friday and lasts through September.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s open burning ban has been an annual ritual for the past 10 years.

Summertime weather patterns can trap smoke and other pollutants and adversely affect air quality.

The EPD makes exceptions for agricultural burns, but growers must seek a permit from one of the regional offices. The fire department will have to visit the site before the burn to make sure conditions are favorable.

“There are guidelines we go by,” Macon-Bibb County Fire Prevention Chief Larry Smallwood said.

Permits will not be issued on windy days or under certain drought conditions.

“We’ll have to come out and look at all of those,” he said. “There is no burning in Bibb County unless we give you a permit.”

Recreational fires, such as cookouts and bonfires, are exempt, said Smallwood.

Several Middle Georgia counties are included in the ban: Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Lamar, Monroe, Peach, Pike, Twiggs, Upson, Meriwether and Troup counties. Those seeking an agricultural burn permit in those counties during the ban should call the West Central District at 478-751-6612.

People in Jasper and Putnam counties are also included in the ban but would seek permits at the Northeast District Office in Athens at 706-369-6376.

Burning household garbage is prohibited year-round.

In the summer, air quality suffers in seasonal haze.

Burning yard debris sends nitrogen oxides and particle pollution into the air, which can contribute to lung and heart disease.

Last week’s abundant rain means it is likely some permits could be issued before the May 1 deadline, Smallwood said.

Anyone with questions about the burn ban, or who needs to get a permit in Bibb County, should call the Macon-Bibb Fire Prevention Office at 478-751-2700.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.