Fire injuries and fatalities prompt safety warnings

georgia_forestry_commissionThe Georgia Forestry Commission is urging residents to take extra safety measures when burning outdoors, as the agency examines a series of deaths and injuries associated with fire.

“The Georgia Forestry Commission is concerned about the increasing number of people who have lost their lives in connection with debris or prescribed burning over the past few years,” said Brian Clavier, Chief of Law Enforcement with GFC. “Sadly, these fatalities were mostly males over the age of 55, and include four since January. Vigilance is needed to get a handle on this disturbing trend,” said Clavier.

According to Clavier, escaped debris burning is the number one cause of wildfire in Georgia, accounting for more than half of the state’s wildfires.

“As a reminder, all debris burning requires a burn permit,” said Clavier, “with the exception of agricultural fields or pastures, which require notification to the GFC.” Burn permits to burn hand piled vegetation can be obtained when weather conditions are acceptable by logging on to or by calling 1-877-OK2-BURN (652-2876).

Acreage burns must be approved by the local GFC county office.

Precautionary measures are critical for ensuring a safe burn, Clavier said. Besides taking into account weather and wind conditions, people who plan to burn should have necessary tools on hand to contain escaped flames. A shovel and hose are essential, as is a telephone to call 911 before an emergency escalates. Never wear polyester, nylon, or other combustible clothing while burning, and clear a safe zone of at least 25 feet around the burn area before lighting a fire.

“Never be embarrassed to call for help,” said Clavier. “Emergency responders can render assistance in short order when a fire is still somewhat contained, but flames move fast.

It’s truly better to ask for assistance and stay safe than risk injury or even your life trying to battle an escaped fire alone. Fighting a wildfire is extremely dangerous and exhaustive, even for highly training personnel,” Clavier said.

For tips on safe debris burning and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit

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