With spring drawing near, Tennesseans are taking advantage of the mild weather to work around the home or farm. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry wants to remind citizens that if they plan to burn outdoors, a burn permit is required.
“With two of the past three years experiencing record low fire numbers, we hope to see a continuation of that trend,” State Forester Jere Jeter said. “But we need our citizens’ help. Burning leaves and brush that have accumulated around the yard or using fire to clear an old field is an efficient way to get rid of vegetation. However, it is very important that citizens practice safe outdoor burning. Requiring a burn permit is our way of making the public aware of those recommendations and helping them know when, where, and how to safely burn.”
The free burn permits are required by law until May 15, unless otherwise covered by local ordinances. Residents should check with their city and county government for any local requirements or restrictions.
Permits can be obtained online for burning of leaf and brush piles measuring less than 8 feet by 8 feet in area. The online system also provides permit access during weekend and evening hours. Access the system by visiting www.burnsafetn.org. The website is a good source of information for safe debris burning practices and fire prevention tips, including how to protect your home in the event of a wildfire.
Burning permits can be obtained from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday by calling the DeKalb County office of the Division of Forestry at 615-765-7373. In Smithville phone 615-215-3000. Burning permits can be obtained after hours and on weekends by visiting www.burnsafetn.org.
More than 387,000 permits were issued last year for outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste, and burning to clear land. The volume of requests on any given day can be high, so the Division asks residents to exercise patience if they experience delay in reaching a permit writer. The online system is most effective obtaining a permit for a small debris burn.
Once a burn permit is obtained, debris burners should practice common sense.
•Establish a control line around the fire, down to bare soil before conducting the burn.
•Notify neighbors and local fire departments in advance as a courtesy.
•Have tools on hand such as a leaf rake and garden hose or bucket of water to help control fire that escapes.
•Watch for changing weather conditions as winds can blow the fire in the wrong direction.
•Always stay with your fire until it is completely out. It is illegal to leave an open fire unattended.
Despite the low number of fires in 2015, escaped debris burns were still the leading cause of wildfires in Tennessee, accounting for 251 fires that burned more than 1,900 acres. The Division’s burn permit system has dramatically helped reduce the number of escaped burns since the program began in 1995. Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50.
Wildfires caused by arson were the second leading cause of wildfires last year, but damaged the most acreage, burning nearly 5,600 acres. Wildland arson is a class C felony punishable by three 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 more information on the TDA’s Division of Forestry, visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/forestry. For more information on safe debris burning, visit www.burnsafetn.org.
Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry
The Division works to conserve, protect and enhance Tennessee’s forests that cover half the state and provide jobs, timber, clean water, wildlife habitat and recreation.