Confusion over Burning

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February 17, 2006
Fires blazing out of control, smoke polluting the air, those are common worries that come along with open burning. But it's causing an unusual and unexpected hazard this week.

One Evans man wants people to stop burning leaves near his house for the sake of his family's health, so he went door to door to get support. But that enthusiasm caused some problems at the county's emergency services office.

"I got a message on my mailbox to call you about burning in Columbia County," said one caller.

Calls like that are pouring in, keeping EMA Director Pam Tucker away from an important project, improvements to the county's reverse 911 system.

"What that means is I can only answer so many, then it dumps over to voice mail. It went on all day," Tucker said.

But Hollis Key wanted to get her attention. He lives close to neighbors who burn, causing his wife who has Multiple Sclerosis to breathe the smoke.

"If the wind is blowing, the smoke goes in the direction of the wind," Key said.

His fliers worked. Over a hundred called in over the span of two days, with opinions on both sides of the issue.

"My direct line is one number, no one can answer it but me," Tucker said,

"There's nothing wrong with burning in your own backyard. I would not support you on this whatsoever," said one caller.

"Every time I open my window to get a little air, somebody's burning something, so we are in support," said another.

When the leaves start falling, people do have the option of throwing them away.

You need a yellow tag on your garbage bags if you want your leaves and other yard waste picked up.

Burning is a better option for others in rural areas since it adds nutrients to the ground. That's an option Hollis Key hopes to eliminate.

"The smoke bothers me a lot, and many others," Key

Tucker is willing to listen to his concerns. But she wants her phone lines clear so she can get back to work. Burning in Columbia County is legal throughout most of the year. But there will be an emergency services meeting in early March to talk about people's concerns. Hollis key plans to attend.

Georgia Open Burning Requirements