Skip to Main Content

Find COVID-19 Information and Resources

Get A Permit

burning pile of leaves

Burning permits focus attention on the safe use of fire. From October 15 through May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland must by law secure a burning permit from the Division of Forestry. Permits are not required for burning in containers such as a metal barrel with a ½" mesh screen cover. Anyone needing to burn within an incorporated city should contact city authorities about any local burning ordinances. Many towns and cities have their own burning regulations that supersede the Division of Forestry’s burning permit program.

Details

Permits from the Division of Forestry are free of charge and may be obtained online for leaf and brush piles. For larger applications, such as forestry, agricultural, or land clearing operations, call the Division of Forestry phone number for the county where the burning will be done. Links to the online application system and phone numbers are below.

Permits will not be issued on days and in locations if it is considered unsafe to conduct a debris burn.

Please note: Restricting burn permit issuance is not a burn ban. Burn bans can only be proclaimed by the Commissioner of Agriculture, in consultation with the state forester and county mayors on a county basis, or by the Governor, generally on a regional or statewide basis. Such bans carry more significant punishments when violated than burning without a permit. Such bans also prohibit other forms of open-air burning such as cooking fires and campfires. 

For information on what materials may NOT be burned in Tennessee, please visit Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Open Burning Guidelines by clicking here.  To report illegal burning, please call toll-free 1-888-891-TDEC

Follow these simple tips to conduct a 
SAFE DEBRIS BURN

State law requires a permit for open-air burning from October 15 through May 15. Permits are free. You may obtain a permit online for leaf and brush piles.  For broadcast burning for forestry, agricultural, or land clearing operations, call your local Division of Forestry office in your county for a permit. Be sure to check for other restrictions in your locale. Some counties and cities have restrictions that may prohibit outdoor burning. 

If you are burning wooded land be sure to let adjacent landowners know of your plans to burn at least 2 days in advance. This will help your neighbors and keep you in compliance with the law. 

SafeDebrisBurn10_sm

Have an available supply of water and hand tools such as rakes and shovels nearby in case your fire should get away. Mechanized equipment may be necessary to contain fires when weather and fuel conditions make control difficult. 

raked fireline around burn pile

Rake or plow a firebreak around the area you want to burn. Firebreaks should be clean of vegetation and wide enough to contain flames and flying embers. When burning piles the firebreak must be wide enough to catch rolling debris. The taller the vegetation the wider the firebreak should be. It should expose a swath of bare ground at least 3 feet wide through leaves or short grass. It should be at least 5 feet wide through tall grass or brush. 

Stay informed about possible weather changes. Wind and relative humidity are important weather considerations. Approaching fronts and thunderstorms may change wind directions and generate strong gusts. Outdoor burning should be postponed when winds are high, relative humidities low, and wind gusts are predicted. 

Generally, burning permits are not issued on dry, windy days. Even if you have a permit, you should stop burning if a strong wind comes up. Winds may not only carry burning embers into surrounding vegetation but also fan the flames making the fire difficult to control. 

Mornings and early evenings are usually good times to burn because winds are calmer and the relative humidity is higher. Be sure to complete your burning early enough that your smoke will disperse and does not become a health or highway hazard. 

Check Your Weather Forecast

Your fire is your responsibility! You may be liable for any damages your fire and smoke cause to other people’s property! 

Be sure you have enough help. Don’t try to burn more than you can handle by yourself. Keep debris piles small, gradually adding to the fires as they burn down. Large piles of burning debris generate intense heat capable of carrying relatively heavy embers up and across control lines. 

Select a burn location away from overhanging tree branches and overhead and underground utility lines. Intense heat from a fire could ignite leaves of trees or cause damage to branches and tree trunks. It could also damage utility 

SafeDebrisBurn11_sm

Don’t leave your fire until it is completely out and cold, regardless of the time of day. This requirement not only applies to homeowners, but also to contractors conducting debris fires while land clearing. Use plenty of water, douse the embers and mix them with dirt until they are cool and safe. Brush and debris piles can appear to be burned out, but a gust of wind can fan embers causing them to flame or blow across control lines. Within minutes a calm situation can become a wildfire! 

SHOULD YOUR FIRE ESCAPE AND SPREAD, CALL 911 RIGHT AWAY. 

Online Permits

For fast, free, and easy Debris Burn Permit application, use the online burn permitting system. 

Online permits can be obtained for any size leaf and brush burn pile daily (including weekends) from 8 AM to 11 PM CT. Each pile should be completely out by the permit expiration.

The permit system works best in modern browsers such as Microsoft Edge, Chrome, FireFox, and Mobile browsers. Older browsers, such as Internet Explorer, are not supported.

Phone Permits

Call to request a permit for broadcast burning applications such as forestry (understory, site prep), agricultural (crop stubble, field clearing), wildlife (habitat, warm season grasses), land clearing (dozer piles, windrows) or other burning.