What SB-119 means for your county, and what you can do next.

For many years, the state of Georgia has partnered with the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) to issue residential burn permits on behalf of counties and municipalities. In fact, GFC issued over 650,000 burn permits in the first quarter of this year alone through their online or telephone burn permit systems.

 

What you may not know is that as of July 1, 2021, this will no longer be the case.

 

SB-119, passed on May 7th and effective July 1st, removes the notification and permit requirements with the GFC for residential burning activities. What this means is that the Forestry Commission will not be alerted to each burn for monitoring, nor will their permit issuing process be used and determine when burning is allowed or not. 

The effect is that counties that have previously relied on the GFC are facing two new challenges: Ordinances and Permit Issuing.

 

Do you have a local ordinance covering residential burns?

 

The good news is that these changes do not override local ordinances. The bad news is that very few counties we’ve spoken with have local ordinances in place that account for these burning activities as they’ve previously followed the state level. 

Needless to say, creating and passing news ordinance to cover this new gap is no small task. Habersham County is an example of one with ordinance in place, and could serve as a good template to follow if you’re creating them from scratch under this tight timeline. 

Of course, that’s only half the problem.

 

How are you going to issue permits without the GFC?

 

The simplest (at first) approach to solving this problem is to assign the permit issuing and monitoring to existing staff. Your residents call in, give their information, and receive a permit number. Simple, right? 

Sometimes it is, but more often than not it becomes problematic. For example:  

  • Monitoring and tracking, whether paper based or in a spreadsheet are prone to errors.
  • Availability of that staff to take each call or walk-in means permits can only be issued during regular business hours, and often not on evenings or weekends. This means you’ll have lower compliance. 
  • The cost is also substantial both in terms of the salary you’re paying that staff and also the opportunity cost of having that staff distracted from other duties.
  • When attending a call, verification of permit numbers will be difficult, especially during non-business hours.

How we help at GeorgiaBurnPermits.com

 

We know a thing or two about issuing burn permits online as we also run FirePermit.Online, used by municipalities in the US and Canada to issue permits directly to residents. Our approach has always been to work with those municipalities to create a fully custom solution tailored to their needs. 

There are a couple reasons we’re building GeorgiaBurnPermits.com separately from FirePermit.Online:

  • Although things have changed with the GFC, it doesn’t mean the process was broken. We’re making some improvements to their process, but we didn’t want every county and all your residents to have to learn a completely new system. GeorgiaBurnPermits.com will be simple and familiar for residents and counties alike to adopt.
  • No IT integrations required: Provide us your ordinance and a few pieces of information about your county’s current burn state, and we’ll have you ready to issue permits the same day.

What this means is that we’ve created a BYOO (Bring Your Own Ordinance) solution to your new problem. We know that there is a lot to do before July 1st, so you can focus on your ordinance and we’ll provide the rest!

 

What’s ahead…

 

In the next 2 weeks, we will begin onboarding all interested counties to GeorgiaBurnPermits.com. So allow us to tell you a bit more about what that will include:

  1. A web portal, similar to the GFC Permit portal, where residents of your counties will be able to visit, agree to your ordinance/terms, provide their information as required, and receive their permit number for the day.
  2. An automated phone solution, allowing for Georgians that prefer to use the phone to notify and receive a daily permit number.
  3. Native iOS and Android apps, for your residents that apply for permits more frequently. They can save their information and apply each day with one tap on their screen.
  4. An admin portal, where county/fire department staff will be able to log in and confirm details, track numbers, and institute local burn bans, quickly.

All of the above will be accessible 24×7 and require none of your staff’s time to keep running. 

 

Wrapping up.

 

As you know, just because the requirement for permits and notification was dropped at the state level, residential burn debris will still escape the properties, cause issues, and lead to wildfires. The GFC responded to 292 wildfires that were caused by residential burns between July 1, 2020 and April of this year. Tracking where these burns are taking place and ensuring that residents conducting the burns have agreed to follow all necessary precautions are important requirements for your communities’ safety. 

Our goal is to support Georgia’s counties and municipalities in this transition, save your time so you can focus on creating the local ordinances for your county, and meet you halfway with a ready-made burn permitting solution. 

We would be happy to tell you more about our service over a quick demo. Get in touch!

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admin June 4, 2021 0 Comments