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Burn ban ends; rules still apply
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Get a burn permit

To obtain a burn permit for residential burns, call the Gainesville Fire Department at 770-534-3612 or Hall County Fire Services at 770-536-2442. For land clearing permits, call 770-531-6838.

Just in time for cooler weather, the ban on outdoor burning has been lifted.

Friday marked the end of the Environmental Protection Division's annual burn ban. Outdoor burning is prohibited May 1 to Sept. 30 in metro-area counties because it contributes to high ozone levels during the summer months.

"This is the 11th year, and 54 counties participate every year," Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said.

Gainesville and Hall County fire departments are now issuing permits to burn yard refuse like sticks and leaves.

"You can't burn paper, construction materials or anything of that nature," Gainesville Fire Marshall Jerome Yarbrough said.

There are two types of burn permits: residential and land clearing.

Hall County residents can call the automated burn permit hot line to listen to instructions and be issued a free, one-day burn permit.

"You have to be 50 feet away from property lines and other structures," Cagle said. "Of course we don't recommend children doing this, it's for the adults of the household."

Yarbrough said Gainesville residents must call the city's fire department for a burn permit - Hall County permits don't apply.

"One of our guys will come out and inspect the site they're going to burn on," Yarbrough said. "Each permit is a one-day thing."

Land clearing permits, also known as commercial permits, work a little differently. An inspection is required by the fire department and special equipment may be required to accelerate the pace of larger burns. Like residential permits, only leaves, limbs and other natural debris may be burned.

"If someone is caught burning without a permit or burning illegal material, they are subject to a citation," Cagle said. "That fine can be anywhere from $250 up to $1,000."

Burn sites must be away from structures and property lines and there must be a water source nearby.

"Fire extinguishers don't qualify," Yarbrough said.

Gainesville also does not allow outdoor burning on stormy days or at night.

"We don't do permits on cloudy, overcast or rainy days," Yarbrough said. "If they see the weather condition change, they can always call and we'll come out."

Cagle said despite safety precautions, the number of emergency calls increases each year after the burn ban ends.

"The one thing we would encourage, other than following the rules and regulations, is to be very careful and stay with the fire at all times. It takes just a matter of seconds for a gust of wind to come up and create a major problem for them and the fire department," Cagle said. "Hopefully everybody will take heed and be careful when they are burning."