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    The Atlanta Incident: Policy Changes and Lessons Learned

    Policy Changes
    Due to the Atlanta Incident, and the above suggestions made by the After Action Review, changes have been made to Georgia's prescribed fire policies:

    • The Georgia Forestry Commission has committed to notifying the public when it allows controlled burns on units over 1000 acres in size.
    • Work is currently underway to develop a real time permitting system and automated data system to better track the burns planed for each season.
    • As of April 16th 2008, a final Basic Smoke Management Plan for Georgia was developed with the input from numerous stakeholders, including members of the prescribed fire community with political influence. This Basic Smoke Management Plan is included in the state's Regional Haze State Implementation Plan. While the plan is an improvement there are issues which arise with its development.

    In the opinion of State Forestry staff, the Basic SMP is merely documenting protocol which is, and was at the time of the incident, already in place. In the opinion of State Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Staff, the document is not stringent enough to adequately protect human health.

    Currently the state is planning to submit this Basic SMP for EPA certification, though an Enhanced SMP may be developed in the future for certain regions of the state as time progresses. Revisions to the plan may also be required with the development of non-attainment plans for the revised NAAQS standards for PM 2.5 and ozone.

    Lessons Learned

    • Smoke problems resulting from prescribed fire can result in more stringent air quality programs and regulations.
    • Conducting an after action review of an incident, and including all the important players, can help build strong relationships.
    • Just because we follow an existing protocol and are in prescription does not mean we will not cause air quality problems if our predictive tools are inadequate.
    • Coordination and communication among offices regarding multiple burns could help prevent smoke impacts.

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