How do I obtain a Burn Permit?
Effective July 1, 2021, you no longer need to obtain a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) to burn outdoors in the unincorporated areas of Walker County between October 1 and April 30. Please note, this pertains to the burning of things like twigs and small tree limbs, leaves, brush and grass clippings. It remains illegal to burn household garbage and man-made materials such as tires, shingles, plastics and lumber year round.
Burn permits for inside the city limits of Lafayette, Rossville, Chickamauga, and Lookout Mountain are issued by that city.
Do I need to contact the local fire department when burning?
A phone call to the local fire department is not necessary.
What can I burn?
Only natural vegetation is permitted to be burned (leaves, limbs and brush).
What size pile can I burn?
GFC issues burn permits for natural vegetation that is hand piled. A hand piled permit does not include the burning of debris generated by machine clearing of an area for the purpose of establishing a garden spot or land clearing. This type of activity is considered a land type change and is subject to the EPD land clearing burning rules and may require the use of an Air Curtain Destructor depending on the county in which you live.
What is illegal to burn?
It is unlawful to burn man made materials such as tires, shingles, plastics, lumber, household garbage, etc. No Large Burns. No land clearing permits will be issued without an Air Curtain Destructor in place per EPD rules.
What is an Air Curtain Destructor and what is it for?
The Open Burning Rules require anyone burning vegetative material for the purpose of land clearing to use an Air Curtain Destructor (ACD). An ACD is a forced air pit incinerator that generates a barrier of air (or “air curtain)” over a fire, when activated over a fire pit. The ACD limits the amount of smoke released into the air during the burning process. The curtain of air traps the smoke and forces it back into the hot burning fire instead of out into the atmosphere. The smoke is then re-burned until most of it is gone. This makes a much cleaner burn, emitting considerably less smoke and pollution.
Is there anywhere in Walker County that I am not allowed to burn?
No burning permit will be issued inside the city limits of Lafayette, Rossville, Chickamauga or Lookout Mountain. These cities issue their own burn permits.
Do I need to stay and watch the fire?
Yes. A fire, no matter how small, should never be left unattended. According to Georgia law, you must stay and watch the fire and have an extinguishing device readily available in the event that the fire begins to spread and become out of control.
Do I need a burn permit for a campfire?
No, it is not necessary to obtain a burn permit for a campfire. Any campfire, barbeque, or other cooking fire should be no larger than a two (2) foot by two (2) foot area.
What are the alternatives to burning?
Compost: Process of decomposing materials to create fertilizer and soil amendment.
Chip/Shred/Grind: Repurposing limps, stumps, and branches into mulch for walking paths, plant root insulation, and erosion control.
Dispose: Haul off debris to an inert landfill, construction and demolition landfill, or a commercial processing operation site. Walker county landfill is permitted as a construction and demolition landfill.
When does the burn ban begin and end?
No open burning will be allowed in Walker County May 1st to September 30th per Georgia EPD with the exception of:
-Agricultural burning exemptions
-Forestry “prescribed burning”
-Firefighting training exemptions
-Operation of open flame equipment exemption
Are there penalties for burning during the burn ban?
Yes. Failure to adhere to the burn ban during the months of May through September will result in fines ranging from three hundred ($300) to three thousand ($3,000) dollars.
What is the purpose of the burn ban and why is it important?
Open burning is banned during “Smog Season” which is from May through September. These months are the hottest and sunniest times of the year. During this time, the sun can intensify the creation of smog which in turn causes the smoke to stay low creating a greater concern for health and safety.
What is smog?
Smog builds when summertime sunlight “cooks” everyday emissions from motor vehicles, industry, paints, solvents and gasoline fumes. When the pollutants react with the summertime sunlight, they form ground-level ozone, the main component in smog. Smog can inflame breathing passages, decrease the lungs’ working capacity, cause shortness of breath, pain when inhaling deeply, wheezing, and coughing. It can cause eye and nose irritation and it dries out the protective membranes of the nose and throat and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection, increasing susceptibility to illness. Hospital admissions and respiratory deaths often increase during periods when ozone levels are high.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact Walker County Fire Rescue at (706) 539-1255.