* Georgia law no longer requires notification to the Georgia Forestry Commission by people planning to burn yard debris. Charges may apply if wildfire results from escaped burning and evidence show reasonable fire prevention precautions were not taken.

In response to the deepening drought and the rising risk of wildfire, a special team has been dispatched to north Georgia by the U.S. Forest Service and Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC). This fire prevention and education team will be canvassing counties throughout north Georgia, where the drought index is at critical levels and where the wildfire hazard is particularly dangerous.

“Wildfires across the state in September were triple in number compared to our five year September average,” said Mark Wiles, Team Leader. “Our agencies are taking these proactive steps to get the word out to residents that extreme caution must be used to ensure everyone’s safety. Any outdoor spark could lead to a wildfire that would likely move quickly and be difficult to contain.”

With the fall foliage season beginning and an increased number of expected visitors to north Georgia, the agencies are sharing fire safety information at community gatherings, centers, camps, and on social media. People may also come in contact with Smokey Bear or see reminders posted to electronic signs and billboards. Outdoor enthusiasts visiting the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests should take special note of these conditions as they hike, camp and enjoy outdoor recreation.

“We have to raise everyone’s awareness,” said Wiles. “It’s been brutally hot, we haven’t had any rain, and tinder-like conditions are right outside our back doors. Be extra careful with outdoor grills, chains dragging from vehicles, campfires and the like. One ember could truly be the start of something devastating.”

Some Georgia counties have instituted complete burn bans. Burn permits from the Georgia Forestry Commission are always required for outdoor burning. The number one cause of wildfire in Georgia is escaped burns. The GFC reminds everyone to put safety first and when using fire outdoors to always have a shovel, water source and cell phone on hand.

“Never be shy about calling 911,” Wiles said. “Resources are at hand and these fires burn fast and hot. If your fire gets out of hand, act quickly.”

To request a visit by the fire prevention and education team, send an email to georgiawildfireprevention2019@gmail.com.

For more information about wildfire in Georgia, fire safety tips to protect your property and family, and to learn more about services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org. For national forest information go to www.fs.usda.gov/conf.