Fire warning in spite of rains - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fire warning in spite of rains

February 07, 2006

Thomasville, Georgia-- The Georgia Forestry Commission says weather conditions are just right to spark wildfires, especially now, during the middle of prescribed burn season.

Juanita Howard is in charge of logistics at the Georgia Forestry Commission's Thomas County Branch. "I'm called the mitigation specialist. I issue the burn permits," she says. Howard logs each in a book and marks it on a GPS based map, backup for commission firefighters, even after the heavy rainfall last night.

"Grass or so, which is what we call a one hour fuel, or a fine fuel, it can dry out within a couple of hours and you'll be able to burn it," says Chief Ranger, Trent Ingram.

That's something many people are unaware of. And the height of prescribed burn season is now. Permits are free, started by the Commission to identify smoke plumes. "Even though your fire might be out by dark, your smoke is still there," says Ingram.

The branch used to use a hundred foot tower to scan for fires all over Thomas County, but recently, technology has taken over. Airplanes can get the job done a lot faster, and they can cover a lot more area. "They'll fly after lunch. They can cover a county within ten minutes or so," says Ingram.

Thomas falls under district nine, which is made up of 16 counties. Within them, fires must be lit after eight a.m., and out by dark. Only natural, vegetative materials can be burned. If a fire gets out of control without a permit being issued: "They're going to be issued suppression charges," says Howard. Which can vary in cost depending on how much effort is put into putting a fire out.

Out of control debris burns are the top cause of fires in Georgia. If a permit has been issued, there's no charge for the commission having to put one out.

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