TIFTON -- As wildfire season begins, the Georgia Forestry Commission is reminding area residents that a permit is required for most types of outdoor burning.

GFC Director Ken Stewart said the permit process reduces the number of wildfires and saves the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in wildfire suppression costs.

"Since the burn permit law was enacted in 1988, wildfires have decreased by 31 percent," Stewart said in a statement released last week. "Still, in 2004, more than 2,000 of Georgia's 9,000 wildfires originated from non-permitted burns which resulted in over half a million dollars in suppression costs and needless loss of property and timber."

Under Georgia law, burning without a permit is a misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000. GFC may also collect suppression charges for uncontrolled fires including those for which a permit is not obtained. Georgia wildfires average 4.5 acres in size with a suppression cost of approximately $300 each. Costs escalate on larger fires and could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges to the responsible party.

Alan Dozier, GFC Chief of Forest Protection, said that obtaining a burn permit is simple.

"All anyone has to do is call their local Georgia Forestry Commission office and request a permit for outdoor burning," he said. "Permits may also be obtained online by visiting the GFC web site. If conditions are favorable, a permit will be granted."

For further information, call 1-800-GATREES, visit the Web site www.gatrees.org, or contact the local GFC at 386-3346.

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