Fall Fire Season Begins Burning Permits Required
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mid-October marks the start of forest fire season announced state forestry officials with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry. During official fire season, Oct. 15 through May 15, state law requires citizens to obtain a burning permit before conducting any open, outdoor burning.
“The burning permit system is a very important wildfire prevention tool,” said state forester Steve Scott. “Getting a burning permit is more than just a requirement of state law. It serves as a useful way for us to communicate with citizens about how, when and where it is safe to burn.”
Citizens can obtain a verbal burning permit by simply calling their local Division of Forestry office listed in the phone directory under state government between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Permits are generally good for 24 hours and can be issued for weekends. A directory of state forestry offices by county can be found on the Web at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture/forestry, click on Fire Information then Burning Permits.
Activities requiring a burning permit include, but are not limited to unconfined, outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste, and burning to clear land. Burning permits are required in all areas of the state unless superseded by local ordinance, so forestry officials suggest that you also check with your city government for any local burning restictions.
Earlier this year, the Division of Forestry deployed 51 new “pumper units” statewide. The units consist of a pick-up mounted tank, pump and sprayer capable of dispensing water or foam. The new equipment is used in wildland firefighting but is particularly beneficial in areas where homes and other structures are near wooded or grassy areas. The new firefighting equipment was part of a major upgrade for the Division of Forestry funded in 2005 through an appropriation proposed by Governor Phil Bredesen and supported by the Tennessee General Assembly.
So far this year, more than 1,900 fires have burned an estimated 29,300 acres in Tennessee. Escaped debris burns are the leading cause of fire; however, 35 percent of the fires this year are due to arson, which is class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017.
During fire season, anyone burning without a permit is subject to a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50. For more information about burning permits, call your local state Division of Forestry office or visit online at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture/forestry then click on Fire Information.