A 54-county burn ban ended last Sunday, Oct. 1 and continues through April and will allow for some residential burning by permit, which is available on request from the Douglas County Fire Department.

Douglas and 53 other counties including Paulding, Coweta and Carroll were under a burn ban by the Georgia Forestry Commission through September. The ban is intended to aide with air quality and also to reduce the number of wildfires during drought conditions.

Dry conditions contributed to several serious fires ignited in the state and the region last year, including wildfires in Tennessee and North Carolina.

And last November, Douglas went under a Level 2 Drought Response as set by the Environment Protection Division (EPD), but that status has since recently changed, according to Lyndsey Sargent, communications coordinator, Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority.

Sargent, contacted recently by phone, said that the Level 2 status has been taken back to Level 1 locally as the water level at Dog River Reservoir has reached acceptable requirements.

Level 2 was in effect largely to restrict outdoor water use such as car washing or power washing with both residential and businesses and the need for that restriction has passed, Sargent said.

Additionally lake levels have also risen at least closer to optimum levels necessary to lower the drought assessment.

Level 2 remained in effect while Lake Lanier's level was deemed low, which has improved, but Lanier is still down about 5 feet from full pool, Sargent said. She added that fall rains could help to recoup that.

"Level 1 is essentially just a PR and messaging campaign to tell people, 'hey, you've done a good job getting out of the drought; we're back in a good place as far as the reservoir is concerned, but we just want everybody to keep following those water conservation tips ... and keep doing what they're doing to save water,' " Sargent said.

With the burn ban lifted, Douglas County Fire Chief Scott Spencer advises before doing any burning to first consider the environment and also make plans to stay put during their burn period.

"Be respectful of your neighbors and anyone who may have respiratory issues. And, stay with it, don't just start one and walk off," Chief Spencer said, and added, "Just be careful; (people should) realize a fire can quickly get away from them, that's why they need to maintain a presence at the burn."

Residential burning is primarily of leaves on a property. Burning of garbage is prohibited, Spencer said.

Permits can also be subject to cancellation depending on factors such as air pollution levels, or weather, according to information provided online by the Douglas County Fire Department..

And Spencer stressed that Douglas County Fire Department officials reserve the right to rescind permits at any time depending on current wind conditions.

In addition to obtaining a burn permit residents are instructed to follow burning guidelines. Guidelines are available online from the fire department.

One key guideline for residential burning is a daily call during the term of the permit to confirm that burning will be allowed, since shifts in wind speed in excess of 10 mph can prohibit burning on a given day. Permits are issued for no more than 10 days without approval of the fire official.

Permits can be obtained at your local fire station. To find out if permits are being issued for a given day, call the fire department at 770-942-8626.

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