Fire chief thanks Winder for patience on burn ban

WINDER - The leaf piles, how they accumulate.

Like most of north Georgia, Winder and Barrow County have been forced to endure an autumn without the customary method of leaf-disposal - burning.

But officials say the local citizenry has been understanding, cooperative and outright nice about not setting leaf piles ablaze.

"I cannot say enough about our citizenry," said Winder Fire Department Chief Raymond Mattison. "We've had no criticism. They all understand we're all in this together."

Of course, the chief said this week he doesn't expect the ban to be lifted anytime soon. Mattison partnered recently with Barrow County Fire Chief Robert Post to announce the ban would be extended "indefinitely" from its usual Sept. 30 conclusion.

The ban on burning permits, which are required to ignite leaves and debris, is the first of its kind in Winder, said Mattison.

"To totally extend a ban this long - it just shows the severity that the drought has had," he said.

Should a significant rainfall drench the county, Mattison said the ban might be reevaluated. But the drenching needs to be significant.

"If it only rains a half-inch, that doesn't really help our deficit," Mattison said.

The open-burning ban imposed by the state normally runs from May 1 to Sept. 30, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The ban applies to 54 Georgia counties, including Barrow and Gwinnett.

State forestry officials announced the ban would be extended for counties in northwest Georgia in early October.

Chief Mattison advises Winder residents to simply rake leaf piles to inconspicuous areas of their property and hope for rain. Regular curbside debris and limb collections will continue within city limits, he said.

"We just appreciate their patience and understanding," Mattison said.