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Guidelines for Open Burning of Natural Disaster Debris

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Air Pollution Control open burning regulations include an exception for anyone conducting open burning of materials resulting only from a natural disaster.  Such open burning is subject to certain conditions found at Tennessee Air Pollution Control Regulations (TAPCR) 1200-03-.04(l). Everyone must comply with the listed basic conditions which include, but are not limited to:

  • Making a reasonable effort to remove all expressly prohibited materials from the natural disaster remains before ignition.
    Expressly prohibited materials include tires and other rubber products, vinyl shingles and siding, other plastics, asphalt shingles and other asphalt roofing materials, and/or asbestos containing materials
  •  Ensuring that a traffic hazard will not be caused by the air contaminants generated by the fire
  • Refraining from igniting a fire while any pollution emergency episode is in effect in the area of the burn.  (Visit AirNow.Gov for current air quality conditions.)
  • Ensuring that no other safe and/or practical means of disposal is available

If a governmental collective burn site for disposing of structural and household materials and/or vegetation damaged by a natural disaster is planned, a 3-day advance notice must be made to the Division prior to the burn.  This notification may be made either verbally or in writing and must be delivered to the Division at the appropriate regional Environmental Field Office.

A government should only propose collective burn locations that will have minimal impact on public health and safety. For example, stay away from homes and congested areas, schools, hospitals, highways, etc.

Air Pollution Control staff will respond to each notification in a timely manner and obtain the following information:

  1.  Person responsible for proposed burning and their address/phone/email
  2.  Site contact person for proposed burning and their address/phone/email
  3.  Specific address of burn site (Map and Parcel numbers if no 911 address is available)
  4.  Coordinates of burn site (Latitude/Longitude)
  5.  Projected start date of burn
  6.  Projected end date of burn
  7.  Description of material to be burned

The Division will conduct a site evaluation of the proposed burn site and respond in writing for  the entity’s records. If the location is unsuitable, the Division will evaluate any proposed alternate sites for suitability.

Open burning conducted under this exception is only allowed where no other safe and/or practical means of disposal is available.  The alternative use of chippers and grinders, landfilling, or on-site burial of waste in lieu of burning, if lawful, is encouraged.

It is important to note that the receipt of a concurrence letter from the Division of Air Pollution Control is based on compliance with TAPCR 1200-03-04(l).  Additional approval processes may be required by other Divisions of TDEC, including, but not limited to, the Division of Water Resources and the Division of Solid Waste Management.  In order to help ensure that all applicable TDEC regulations are met, governments should contact these Divisions prior to beginning any operations at a collective site.