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If You Have Brush to Burn, Don't Forget the Permit

Thursday, March 26, 2015 | 08:16am

Nashville – The recent winter storms were hard on Tennessee’s landscape. Heavy ice brought down limbs and trees across the state. Brush pile burning is one of the best ways for landowners to clean up woody debris from the storms.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is reminding citizens that outdoor burning requires a permit through May 15.

“Burning woody debris from the ice storms is an efficient way of getting rid of such material,” State Forester Jere Jeter said. “However, it is very important that citizens be safe when conducting a debris burn. Obtaining a burn permit in advance of outdoor burning is our way of making a landowner aware of when, where, and how it is safe to burn.”

If you are burning a leaf or brush pile that is smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet in size, log on to www.burnsafetn.org to secure a permit.

For a larger burn, apply for a permit by calling your local Division of Forestry burn permit phone number Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Phone numbers can be found by visiting www.burnsafetn.org.

Burn permits are free. Residents should check with their city and county government for any local restrictions.

Once you have obtained a burn permit, remember these tips:

  • Develop a bare-soil perimeter around the fire. 
  • Notify neighbors and local fire departments in advance.
  • Have a leaf rake and access to water for fire control.
  • Be aware that wind can blow the fire in the wrong direction.
  • Stay with the fire until it is extinguished. It is illegal to leave an open fire unattended.


In 2014, debris fires that got out of control were the leading cause of wildfires in Tennessee, burning 5,366 acres statewide.

Burning debris without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine and jail time.

Arson was the second leading cause of wildfires last year but accounted for the most acreage damaged, with 7,800 acres burned. Wildland arson is a class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017.

For tips on safe debris-burning practices, fire prevention and home protection, visit www.burnsafetn.org.  

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry works to conserve, protect and enhance forests that cover half the state and provide jobs, timber, clean water, wildlife habitat and recreation. Visit www.TN.gov/agriculture/forestry for more information.

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