Summer heat, dry conditions and an open burning ban are only a few reasons why Troup County residents should be practicing fire safety.
Human behavior is the leading cause of ground fires, with cooking, camping and improper disposal of smoking materials as three of the most common causes.
“With the dry climate, it just takes a small amount of smoke to start,” LaGrange Fire Department Public Information Officer Chris Taylor. “The best defense is to create a fire safe zone 30 to 100 feet around the perimeter of your home.”
Debris, including dead leaves, branches and flammable vegetation are dangers during hot summer months. Dead branches extending over the roof of a house are also dangerous and should be removed.
“You’re asking for trouble if conditions get dry enough,” Taylor said.
The size of a fire-safe zone depends on the area around the home. With open land or hardwood forest, 30 feet may be sufficient. If a pine forest surrounds the home, 100 feet would be the minimum safety zone.
“If something does catch fire, your house won’t catch fire at the same time,” he said.
Properly disposing of ashes and smoking materials and ashes in metal cans, as well as making sure fires are fully put out before leaving a campsite, can prevent ground fires.
Debris burning is second to arson as the most common cause of wildfires, which occur in more rural areas, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) website.
“People can prevent this by making sure they put their fires out,” Chief Ranger Amy Weaver said. Weaver said parents should also monitor their children’s activity while in wooded areas.
“Children start fires in the woods while on summer break,” she said.
Outdoor burning of any kind is currently prohibited by an open burning ban. Troup County is one of 54 Georgia counties under the burn ban, which began May 1 and ends Oct. 1.
The open burning ban is under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Air Protection Branch. The ban is in compliance with federal clean air regulations.
In Georgia, ozone in the air can reach unhealthy levels during summer months. The Georgia EPD has identified open burning as a significant contributor of the pollutants that form ozone. Consequently, open burning in metro Atlanta and larger counties is also restricted during the summer months, according to the GFC website.
“Many people don’t know the ban is in place,” Taylor said.The fire department usually issues a warning for burning without a permit, unless they revisit a resident who has already received one.
The LaGrange and Troup County Fire Departments do not fall under the burn ban.
“As long as we are doing training for educational purposes, we can burn any time of the year,” LaGrange Fire Department Capt. John Brant said.
People burning for warmth or as an only means to cook are exempt from the ban, Lt. Caleb Harrison said.
As for accidental fires, escape plans and working smoke alarms are a crucial part of prevention. Smoke alarms should be properly placed on each level of a home and each room should have two exits. According to Taylor, these are usually a window and a door.
Establishing a meeting place, he said, can make a house fire more manageable for firefighters and victims alike.
“Find out what works best for your family or living situation,” Taylor said. “Once everyone is out, then we can deal with fighting the fire.”