Selected Georgia prescribed burning legislation

State code

Title 12. Conservation and Natural Resources (Entire Title)

Sections [Assigned titles, not official ones]

12-6-5. [Obligations of the Commission]

12-6-17. [Burn bans, with exemptions only for saving a life or valuable property]

12-6-21. [Uncontrolled fires]

12-6-80. [Title of Georgia Forest Fire Protection Act]

12-6-84. [Right of Commission to enter private property to suppress a fire]

12-6-89. [Burn bans and expanded restrictions]

12-6-90. [Obtaining a permit]

12-6-91. [Right to burn based on having a permit and preventing fire escape]

12-6-145. [Title of 'Georgia Prescribed Burning Act]

12-6-146. [Benefits of prescribed burning]

12-6-147. [Definitions of terms used in Act]

12-6-148. [Conditional liability protection if trained/experienced burn manager present]

12-6-149. [Certified burner program]


Title 16.  Crimes and Offenses (Entire Title)


16-7-23. [Arson]

16-7-28. [Fire escape]


Section 12-6-5. [Obligations of the Commission]

(a) The commission shall have power and authority:

(1) To take all action appropriate to foster, improve, and encourage reforestation;
(2) To engage in research and other projects for the ascertainment and promulgation of better forestry practices;
(3) To offer aid, assistance, and technical advice to landowners relative to the preservation and culture of forests;
(4) To receive gifts or donations made to it and to expend the same under the terms of such gifts or donations;
(5) To conduct and direct fire prevention work and maintain equipment, personnel, and installations for the detection, prevention, and combating thereof;
(6) To publish and distribute the results of its research and investigations;
(7) To cooperate and contract with other agencies and instrumentalities of government, either county, municipal, state, or national, and with private persons or concerns for the advancement of the forests of this state.

(b)        (1) The director is authorized to accept, without regard to the State Merit System of Personnel Administration laws, rules, or regulations, the services of individuals without compensation as volunteers for or in aid of fire tower operation, urban tree planting and inventories, seedling deliveries, insect surveys and evaluations, tours and field days, staffing exhibits, facility maintenance, beautification projects, and any other activity in and related to the objectives, powers, duties, and responsibilities of the commission.
(2) The director is authorized to provide for reimbursement of volunteers for incidental expenses such as transportation, uniforms, lodging, and subsistence. The director is also authorized to provide general liability coverage and fidelity bond coverage for such volunteers while they are rendering service to or on behalf of the commission.
(3) Except as otherwise provided in this Code section, a volunteer shall not be deemed to be a state employee and shall not be subject to the provisions of law relating to state employment including, without limitation, those relating to hours of work, rates of compensation, leave, unemployment compensation, retirement, and state employee benefits.
(4) Volunteers performing work under the terms of this Code section may be authorized by the department to operate state owned vehicles. They may also be treated as employees of the state for the purposes of inclusion in any automobile liability insurance or self-insurance, general liability insurance or self-insurance, or fidelity bond coverage provided by the commission for its employees while operating state owned vehicles.
(5) No volunteer shall be authorized or allowed to enter privately owned or operated lands, facilities, or properties, except for emergency fire fighting purposes, without the express prior written permission of the owner or operator of such privately owned or operated lands, facilities, or properties; provided, however, such prohibition shall not apply to lands, facilities, or properties leased to the State of Georgia.

(c) The commission shall have the power and authority to create, establish, and operate a program or programs to facilitate, amplify, or supplement the objectives and functions of the commission through the use of volunteer services including, but not limited to, the recruitment, training, and use of volunteers.
(d) The enumeration of specific powers in this Code section shall not be construed as a denial of others not specified in this Code section.

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Section 12-6-17.

(a) Whenever in the judgment of the director, because of drought or other conditions, controlled burning of woods, lands, marshes, refuse, or other combustible materials in any county or counties or in any area within a county constitutes an unusual hazard to property, the director may by order, rule, or regulation prohibit the setting on fire of any woods, lands, marshes, refuse, or other combustible materials within any county or counties or within any area within a county, or may permit such burning only upon such conditions and under such regulations as in his judgment are necessary and proper to prevent the destruction of property. Where by rule or regulation the setting on fire of any woods, lands, marshes, refuse, or other combustible material has been prohibited, no person shall set or cause to be set any backfire, except under the direct supervision or permission of a state or federal forest officer, unless it can be established that the setting of such backfire was necessary for the purpose of saving life or valuable property, the burden of proving which shall rest on such person claiming same as a defense. Any order, rule, or regulation promulgated by the director under the authority of this Code section shall have the force and effect of law.

(b) Any person violating a lawful order or regulation promulgated under the authority of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

[Burn bans, with exemptions only for saving a life or valuable property]

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Section 12-6-21.

Any fire burning uncontrolled on any forested or cut-over brush land or grassland is declared to be a public nuisance by reason of its menace to life and property. Any person, firm, or corporation responsible either for the starting or for the existence of such fire is required to control or extinguish it immediately. If such person, firm, or corporation shall refuse or neglect to do so, any organized fire suppression force may suppress the nuisance thus constituted by controlling and extinguishing the fire; and the cost thereof may be recovered from the responsible person, firm, or corporation.

[If the state is forced to suppress an onsite uncontrolled fire, the landowner or the burn manager will be held liable for the costs of the operation]


Section 12-6-80.

This part shall be known and may be cited as the 'Georgia Forest Fire Protection Act


Section 12-6-84.

The members of the State Forestry Commission and any of its authorized agents or anyone acting at their direction shall have the right at any or all times to go upon any land for the purpose of preventing, controlling, or suppressing forest fires, as defined in Code Section 12-6-82, or for the purpose of making investigations, without incurring liability for trespassing.

[Right to enter private property to suppress a fire]

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Section 12-6-89.

(a) As used in this Code section, 'extreme forest fire emergency' means a condition whereby forest fires within the state are of such number, size, severity, and intensity that they cannot be controlled by the existing facilities of the State Forestry Commission and are endangering life and property.
(b) The Governor shall have authority to declare and determine the existence and termination of such emergency and, by order, rule, or regulation, to prohibit hunting, fishing, camping, or picnicking in any woods or lands of the state, or to prohibit the entering of such woods or lands for any other purposes which might cause a fire hazard or endanger the life or property of any person within such area. The Governor may direct and commandeer all state agencies and personnel to assist the State Forestry Commission in such emergency by executive order.
(c) Forestry investigators and any and all other peace officers of this state, or of any county or municipality thereof, shall have authority to make arrests for violation of any order, rule, or regulation made pursuant to a declaration of extreme forest fire emergency. Any person who violates any such order, rule, or regulation shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(d) The director of the State Forestry Commission will notify the Governor from time to time what situation, in his judgment, constitutes an extreme forest fire emergency.

[Burn bans and expanded restrictions]

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Section 12-6-90.

(a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this Code section, any person, firm, corporation, or association lawfully entitled to burn any woods, lands, marshes, or any other flammable vegetation, whether in cultivated or uncultivated areas, shall prior to such burning obtain a permit therefor from the forest ranger of the county wherein such burning is to be made or from another employee of the forestry unit serving such county who is authorized by the chief forester of such unit to grant such permits. An applicant for a permit shall provide the county forest ranger or other authorized employee of the forestry unit serving the county with the location and the recommended time of the proposed burn. Such information may be provided and the permit may be obtained by a telephone call to the county forest ranger or to another authorized employee of the forestry unit serving the county. The permit shall be given by providing the applicant therefor with a permit number which will grant permission for a controlled burn to take place at the location specified by the applicant at a time approved by the county forest ranger or by the other authorized employee of the forestry unit serving the county.
(b) It shall not be necessary to obtain a permit otherwise required by subsection (a) of this Code section if a sudden emergency requires a firing in order to render one´s premises safe. In any prosecution under this Code section, a necessary firing in a sudden emergency shall constitute an affirmative defense, but the burden of proving such necessity shall rest upon the person asserting it as a defense.
(c) It shall not be necessary to obtain a permit otherwise required by subsection (a) of this Code section to burn improved pastures, residue on cultivated crop land, or leaf piles if the person, firm, corporation, or association intending to burn such residue shall, prior to such burning, give notice of the approximate time and location thereof to the forest ranger of the county wherein such burning is to be made or to an employee of the forestry unit serving such county who is authorized to grant permits under subsection (a) of this Code section.
(d) The notice or permit required by this Code section shall be in addition to any other notice or permit or other requirement for burning provided for by law or by ordinance, resolution, or regulation of any county or municipality of this state; provided, however, that no additional restrictions provided by local ordinance shall prohibit burning the understory for the health of the forest and wildlife or prohibit the landowner´s ability to reduce fuel loads on the forest floor for the safety of the community; provided, further, that the foregoing exception shall not apply to the burning of leaf or brush piles not necessary to accomplish the purposes of prescribed burning.
(e) Any person who fails to give any notice required by subsection (c) of this Code section or who makes a burn described by subsection (a) of this Code section without obtaining the permit required by said subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

[Obtaining a permit]

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Section 12-6-91.

Unless prohibited by the director of the State Forestry Commission pursuant to the provisions of Code Section 12-6-17 [burn ban], the owners of any forest land may accomplish controlled burning over their own land when a permit therefor [Sic] is obtained pursuant to the requirements of Code Section 12-6-90 and the fire is not allowed to spread onto or over the land of another or others.

[Right to burn based on having a permit and preventing fire escape]


Section 12-6-145.

This part shall be known and may be cited as the 'Georgia Prescribed Burning Act.'


Section 12-6-146.

(a) It is declared by the General Assembly that prescribed burning is a resource protection and land management tool which benefits the safety of the public, Georgia’s forest resources, the environment, and the economy of the state. The General Assembly finds that:

-Prescribed burning reduces naturally occurring vegetative fuels within forested areas. Reduction of such fuels by burning reduces the risk and severity of major wildfire, thereby lessening the threat of fire and the resulting loss of life and property;

-Georgia’s ever-increasing population situates urban development directly adjacent to fire prone forest lands. The use of prescribed fire to manage fuels in interface areas would substantially reduce the threat of damaging wildfire in urban communities;

-Forest land constitutes significant economic, biological, and aesthetic resources of state-wide importance. Prescribed burning on forest land serves to reduce hazardous accumulations of fuels, prepare sites for both natural and artificial forest regeneration, improve wildlife habitat, control insects and disease, and perpetuate fire dependent ecosystems;

-State and federally owned public use lands such as state parks, state and national forests, and wildlife refuges receive resource enhancement through use of prescribed burning;

-As Georgia’s population continues to grow, pressures from liability issues and smoke nuisance complaints cause prescribed burn practitioners to limit prescribed burn activity, thus reducing the above-mentioned benefits to the state;

-Public misunderstanding of the benefit of prescribed burning to the ecological and economic welfare of the state exerts unusual pressures that prevent uninhibited use of this valuable forest resource management tool; and

-Fire benefits rare, threatened, and endangered plants, deer, turkey, quail, dove, and other game as well as numerous songbirds and other nongame species by the increased growth and yields of herbs and legumes. It also allows openings for feeding and travel.

(b) It is the purpose of this part to authorize and promote the continued use of prescribed burning for community protection, silvicultural, environmental, and wildlife management purposes.

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Section 12-6-147.

As used in this part, the term:
(1) 'Commission' means the State Forestry Commission.
(2) 'Prescribed burning' means the controlled application of fire to existing vegetative fuels under specified environmental conditions and following appropriate precautionary measures, which causes the fire to be confined to a predetermined area and accomplishes one or more planned land management objectives or to mitigate catastrophic wildfires.


Section 12-6-148.

(a) Prescribed burning conducted under the requirements of this part shall:

-Be accomplished only when an individual with previous prescribed burning experience or training is in charge of the burn and is present on site until the fire is adequately confined to reasonably prevent escape of the fire from the area intended to be burned;

-Be considered in the public interest and shall not create a public or private nuisance;

-Be considered a property right of the landowner; and

-Be conducted in accordance with a permit issued under Part 3 [12-6-90] of this article.

(b) No property owner or owner´s agent conducting an authorized prescribed burn under this part shall be liable for damages or injury caused by fire or resulting smoke unless it is proven that there was gross negligence in starting, controlling, or completing the burn.

[Conditional liability protection if trained/experienced burn manager present]

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Section 12-6-149.

(a) The commission may promulgate a certified prescribed fire manager program whereby practitioners may become qualified and registered under this part.
(b) The commission shall utilize the same or similar record-keeping requirements of Part 3 of this article, the 'Georgia Forest Fire Protection Act,' to reflect the use of prescribed burning under this part.
(c) The commission shall, subject to sufficient funding, institute a public information campaign in an effort to reveal the benefits of prescribed burning to the general public.


Section 16-7-23.

(a) A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree when he:

(1) Intentionally damages any property of another person without his consent and the damage thereto exceeds $500.00;
(2) Recklessly or intentionally, by means of fire or explosive, damages property of another person; or
(3) With intent to damage, starts a fire on the land of another without his consent.

(b) A person convicted of the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.

[This section appears to be concerned only with arson, despite (a)(2)]

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Section 16-7-28.

(a) It shall be unlawful:

(1) To start, cause, or procure another to start a fire in any woodlands, brush, field, or any other lands not one´s own or leased and without the permission of the owner;
(2) To burn any brush, field, forest land, campfire, or debris, whether on one´s own land or the lands of another, without taking the necessary precautions before, during, and after the fire to prevent the escape of such fire onto the lands of another. The escape of such fire shall be prima-facie evidence that necessary precautions were not taken;
(3) For any person to cause a fire by discarding any lighted cigarette, cigar, debris, or any other flaming or smoldering material that may cause a forest fire; or
(4) To destroy or damage any material or device used in the detection or suppression of wildfires.

(b) This Code section shall not apply to fire resulting from the operation of transportation machinery or equipment used in its normal or accustomed manner.
(c) Any person who violates subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

[If a fire escapes and the necessary precautions were not taken before, during, or after a fire, the burner is liable for misdemeanor charges]

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