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Those autumn leaves are everywhere
Rain drives foliage off the trees and into streets, yards
Johnny Wilson rakes leaves across his yard Friday. The recent rains have knocked the leaves off the oak trees surrounding Wilson’s Gainesville house. “I hate leaves,” Wilson said as he went about his task. - photo by Tom Reed

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Burn permits
Gainesville: Call 770-534-3612
Hall County: Call 770-536-2442 for residential permits good for one day; for land clearing permit, call 770-531-6838 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

Flowery Branch resident Paulette Kennedy doesn’t mind leaves covering up her driveway.

"I love this time of year because I can remember playing in the leaves when I was little," Kennedy said.

Although the leaves were pretty to look at in October, they have become a menace for some people this November. That was particularly the case after heavy rains early in the week caused many to fall off the trees, covering yards, streets and driveways.

Jonathan Gayton of Dahlonega said he doesn’t mind the leaves because his two sons Tucker, 1, and Adrian, 3, enjoy playing in them. Gayton thinks it is important for parents to get outside with their kids in the great fall weather.

"There’s no sense in them being inside all day when it is gorgeous outside," Gayton said.

Gayton grew up burning leaves at his mother’s house, and although he likes to "let nature run its course" and not burn leaves anymore, he remembers the process from his childhood quite well.

"We would rake a bunch of leaves in a pile and sometimes transfer them into a large barrel to burn," Gayton said. "We would wet the ground with a water hose around the area where the fire was going to be for safety and keep the hose near in case the grass caught on fire."

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said that his yard is covered with leaves. As fire marshal, Cagle has to make sure that he goes by the rules when it comes to burning leaves in his yard because "the neighbors are watching."

Cagle is in charge of issuing two different types of burning permits. The first, a residential permit, is for people within the county. Residents have to call an automated line, which will give them instructions and issue a burn permit number good only for that day. The number is 770-536-2442.

People who live inside the city limits of Gainesville, need to call the Gainesville Fire Department at 770-534-3612 for a permit.

The second type of permit is a land clearing burn permit, which is needed if someone wants to take down a tree. For that permit, people can call the Hall County Fire Marshal’s Office at 770-531-6838 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. That type of permit must be picked up in person.

"After they get the burn permit, a good rule of thumb when burning leaves is that dry leaves are better because they burn quicker and produce less smoke than wet leaves," Cagle said.

A pile of leaves should not be bigger than 6-feet 6-inches, and a water source should always be available in case something gets out of control.

When burning leaves, people can only burn natural plant growth, such as leaves and small tree limbs. People also need to stay with the burn pile at all times, and the fire needs to be out completely by nightfall.

"People should not leave a pile of burning leaves alone if there are still smoldering embers because the wind could pick up and the fire could still spread," Cagle said.

Justin Melick of Oakwood said that the leaves don’t bother him until he notices that his house is the only one in the neighborhood with leaves in the yard.

"Everyone else is really quick about raking and removing the leaves as they fall," Melick said.

Melick will blow leaves from his front yard into the back and rake them into a pile. He then starts a fire in a pit and the leaves are thrown in gradually.

"The fire must be tended at all times," Melick said. "Some leaves burn very quickly and some burn very fast."

Melick said that raking leaves can be a hassle, but without the falling leaves every November, it just wouldn’t be fall.

Kennedy’s 5-year-old daughter, Zoe, has been enjoying playing outside in the leaves this fall.

"She has so much fun," Kennedy said. "She will pile them up and play in them with the dog, and she’ll help her dad with the leaf blower."

Kennedy believes that it is good for kids to play outside in the leaves, but they also need to be careful.

"I make sure that Zoe is wearing jeans because rocks and things could be at the bottom of a pile of leaves," she said.