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Burn ban aims to reduce pollution
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People welcome warm weather in many ways.

Some look for that first ripe tomato off the plant. For others, it’s the Memorial Day barbecue.

But for firefighters, it starts today with the implementation of the burn ban.

From May 1 to Sept. 30, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division prohibits burning in 54 counties around Atlanta to help reduce air pollution in the smoggy summer months.

During the heat of the summer, ground level ozone and particle pollution are more likely to reach unhealthy levels. Ozone can cause inflammation to the lungs and cause permanent damage, even at very low levels.

Residents and businesses in Hall County are not allowed to burn debris during the ban.

Hall County Fire Marshall Scott Cagle said the rainy weather over the past few months has some people thinking the burn ban will not be in effect this year.

“A lot of people still think it’s tied into the drought,” Cagle said. “The EPD regulation is very serious. It’s because of our ozone; we’re trying to protect what we’ve got.”

But Cagle said the burn ban does serve the double purpose of preventing the spread of fires during the summer, when conditions are typically hotter and drier. Many may not realize how quickly a fire can get out of control, even when the ground seems moist, he said.

“The rain produces a false sense of security,” Cagle said.

Gainesville Fire Marshall Jerome Yarbrough said there are other options for people to get rid of their lawn refuse during the burn ban.

“With all the rain we had, they may not have had a chance to do their normal burning, but the city has a pickup for yard debris,” Yarbrough said.

Cagle said county residents also have options. They can take debris to a landfill or reuse it.

“They can have it chipped and use it for mulch around the house, compost piles or anything like that,” Cagle said.

Those who violate the burn ban are subject to fines starting at $500.

Though there are a few people every year who do not follow the rules, Cagle and Yarbrough said most are cooperative.

“Most people, they already know there’s a ban in the summer months,” Yarbrough said. “It’s no big surprise.”

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