Local News Articles

Watertown Man Faces More Theft Charges

March 20, 2014
Dwayne Page
Alton David Estes

A Watertown man, already in trouble with the Sheriff's Department for allegedly stealing coin operated air vending machines from three businesses in the county last summer, has now been charged with three similar offenses in the city.

46 year old Alton David Estes of Clever Creek Road, Watertown is charged with three counts of theft over $1,000.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Estes is charged with stealing coin operated air vending machines from the parking lots of the BP Station on April 13 and September 14, 2013 and at Jewel's Market on August 25, 2013. His bond is $15,000.

Sheriff Patrick Ray announced last week that on July 1, 2013 at the Shiney Rock Market on Highway 56 south and at the Liberty Citgo on Highway 70 west and on September 9, 2013 at Hillcrest Market on Highway 70, Estes allegedly took a coin operated air vending machine by breaking loose the bolts. The machines were each valued at more than $1,000.

Meanwhile, two Walmart employees, 21 year old Josie Culwell and James A. McKeown were recently charged with theft of property. Chief Caplinger said that police were called to Walmart on a complaint that an employee had been stealing items from the store. The officer made contact with an associate of Walmart who reported that Culwell, an employee, had taken several items during the last three months of her employment.

She allegedly admitted to committing the theft totaling $668 worth of merchandise. In a separate incident, Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to Walmart on another theft call. The officer spoke with an associate of the store who reported that McKeown had taken several items from Walmart during his employment. McKeown allegedly admitted to taking the items.

42 year old Sandra Clark and 31 year old Deanna Pedigo were each recently charged with aggravated assault and vandalism under $500. Chief Caplinger said police were called to the park on Smith Road in response to a report of an assault of two women. According to police, Pedigo drove up to the park and blocked in the vehicle of two victims. Clark, the passenger, got out of Pedigo's vehicle with a large stick and allegedly broke out a window of the victim's automobile, assaulted the women with the stick and pepper sprayed them. The victims were taken to the emergency room of the hospital for treatment.

29 year old Ricky C. Stanley was recently cited for simple possession of a schedule II drug. Chief Caplinger said an officer responded to Walmart to a disturbance. The officer made contact with Stanley. When he searched Stanley, the officer found on him two pills believed to be Hydrocodone.

43 year old Terry Dean Winfree was recently charged with driving under the influence and cited for simple possession of a schedule II drug. Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to the BP Station on West Broad Street on Tuesday, March 11 in regard to a person who was passed out behind the steering wheel of a vehicle. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with Winfree. He appeared to be very disoriented. He was unsteady on his feet and he submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. Police conducted a search and found inside a cigarette pack a plastic wrapper containing a white powdery substance which field tested positive for methamphetamine. Winfree was placed under arrest.

Jared Atnip was recently charged with public intoxication. He will be in court on April 3. His bond is $1,500. Chief Caplinger said police responded to Pizza Hut where a man in the restaurant (Atnip) appeared to be intoxicated. Upon arrival the officer spoke with Atnip who appeared to be drowsy. His speech was slurred and slow and he had trouble keeping his eyes open. According to Chief Caplinger, Atnip allegedly admitted to taking medication earlier in the day. For Atnip's safety he was placed under arrest.

23 year old Daniel Hamilton was recently charged with domestic assault. Chief Caplinger said police responded to a Hayes Street residence on a domestic violence call. Upon arrival, the officer found Hamilton and his girlfriend, who is the mother of his child. He had allegedly hit her in the face leaving marks and abrasions under her left eye and marks on her chest. She said Hamilton had pinched her about the body. He was placed under arrest.

21 year old Chad Taylor was recently charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to the BP Station on West Broad for a hit and run accident. An officer talked to the other party involved in the accident who gave a description of the vehicle which fled the scene. The automobile was later located at City Walk Apartments. Police confronted Taylor who allegedly admitted to leaving the scene of the accident.

43 year old Tracy Haynes was recently charged with evading arrest. Chief Caplinger said police responded to Frazier Street to do a welfare check on an individual. While there, an officer spoke with Haynes who had outstanding warrants against him. Haynes was advised of the warrants and he fled on foot. Police pursued him and when he failed to obey verbal commands to stop, the officer deployed his taser. Haynes was then placed under arrest.

26 year old James Gilles was recently charged with domestic assault. Chief Caplinger said police were called to break up a fight on Bell Street. An officer spoke with Gilles who said he and his brother had got into an altercation on Cookeville Highway but the fight turned physical after they got out of their vehicle on Bell Street. The officer spoke with the victim who said Gilles grabbed him from the back and choked him until he was almost unconscious.

Robert R. Claude was recently charged with public intoxication. Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to the hospital to help subdue a combative, intoxicated patient. Hospital employees tried to restrain him while police were enroute. Claude was arrested and brought to police department.

21 year old Justin Hale Davenport was recently charged with domestic assault. Chief Caplinger said police responded to the Discount Tobacco store on West Broad Street. An officer spoke with witnesses who reported that Davenport had assaulted a woman there, hitting her in the face. The victim appeared to have redness and swelling to her eye.

55 year old Linda A. Sorrell was recently cited for shoplifting. Chief Caplinger said police responded to Walmart were a store employee spotted Sorrell concealing items in her purse. She was confronted at the doorway as she was leaving. Sorrell was found to have several items in her purse. She allegedly admitted to taking those items.

41 year old Elizabeth C. Gardenhire and 47 year old Sherry R. Schreyer were each recently cited for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store. Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to the store where Gardenhire was spotted by store management concealing items in her purse. Schreyer was also found to be in possession of several items on her person which had not been purchased.

City Officials Shown Automated Side Loader Garbage Truck (View Video Here)

March 19, 2014
Dwayne Page
City Officials Shown Automated Side Loader Garbage Truck

City officials are looking at the possibility of purchasing a new garbage truck for the sanitation department. But unlike its current refuse trucks, the city is considering going to a truck manned only by the driver and equipped with an automated side loader for picking up curbside residential household garbage.

Charlie Akers of Murfreesboro, a sales manager for the Municipal Equipment Incorporated in Knoxville brought a 31 cubic yard tandem axle garbage truck to Smithville Wednesday morning for a demonstration. The mayor, aldermen, and several city employees observed how the demonstrator truck operated its 12 foot automated arm to lift a 96 gallon garbage container.

Although this size truck would more than meet Smithville's needs, Akers told WJLE that the city may look at a smaller vehicle. "They are looking at a single axle automated side loader refuse truck. This truck (demonstrator) was manufactured by New Way of Scranton, Iowa. One of the things that sets this truck apart from others is the way the arm operates. It's got a twelve foot (144 inch) reach. Other competitors only have an 84 inch reach. This is a 31 cubic yard truck. The city is currently running 20 cubic yard rear loaders on their routes," said Akers.

According to Akers many cities in Tennessee are going to automated garbage trucks because it cuts down on manpower on the routes and reduces workers compensation claims. "Everybody is moving to automated. Murfreesboro, Hartsville, Columbia, Gallatin, Sparta, McMinnville, and Cookeville, are just a few of the cities that have made the conversion," said Akers.

"The real advantage is it eliminates a lot of workers compensation claims where you have a guy that hurts his back lifting up containers that are too heavy and he has to miss work. With these trucks, you can operate with only the driver and if it’s raining, snowing, hot, or cold it's just a one man operation and he is not affected by the weather," said Akers.

City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson said sanitation workers who currently ride the routes would not lose their jobs with the new system, but would be reassigned to other positions where they are needed.

If the city should purchase this type of garbage truck, it would also most likely buy one standard garbage container for each residence on the routes for better compatibility with the new system. Anyone who wanted more than one container would have to purchase them.

Akers said if the county develops a solid waste transfer station in the city, the life of a new garbage truck as well as those already being used would be extended. "A big advantage of going to this system with a transfer station is that the trucks are not going to be going into a landfill. It's saves on the life of the truck and the tires. Its hard on trucks to get into and out of that mud (landfill) so you're going to get longer use," said Akers.

Funding for a new garbage truck may be included in the city’s 2014-15 fiscal year budget, subject to approval by the mayor and board of aldermen. Bids would have to be obtained before a truck could be purchased.

Rackley Involved in Pickup Truck Crash

March 19, 2014
Dwayne Page
Rackley Involved in Pickup Truck Crash

A Smithville man escaped serious injury in a pickup truck crash Tuesday on Bright Hill Road.

Sergeant Eric McCormick of the Tennessee Highway Partrol said 26 year old Brandon Rackley was driving a 1987 Chevy S-10 pickup truck west on Bright Hill Road when he ran off the right side of the road and slid head-on into a utility pole. Rackley, who refused treatment, was wearing his seatbelt.

Rackley was charged with driving under the influence, simple possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of drugs (pills) without a prescription, and failure to exercise due care.

He will make a court appearance on April 17.

DeKalb County to Form Cattleman's Association

March 18, 2014
Michael Barry
Michael Barry

All cattle producers, cattle industry representatives, salesmen, and anyone interested in helping advance and improve the beef cattle industry is invited to become a member of the DeKalb County Cattlemen’s Association!

There has been a meeting scheduled to officially create the DeKalb County Cattlemen’s Association. It will take place on Thursday, March 20 at the UT Extension office at 7:00 p.m. The dues for the first year will be $20 per person. The draft copy of the bylaws will be available for viewing. At approximately 7:30 p.m., we will convene with those people who have paid their $20 association dues to vote on the creation of the association and the bylaws. After that vote takes place, then we will proceed with the election of the officers and board of directors. The following positions will be elected… President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer, and 2 At-Large board members. These 5 positions will form the board of directors, along with the County Extension Agent who will serve in an ex-officio capacity. The association will need a group of dedicated, hard working individuals who are willing to commit some time and effort to the association to help it grow, especially during its first year.

Mr. Charles Hord, Executive Vice President of the Tennessee Cattlemen Association plans on being at the meeting on March 20. He will be able to assist us in the process of forming the association and will also be available to answer questions you may have about the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association. If you would like to also join the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, and have not already paid your dues for the year, those dues are $30 for the year and can be paid on March 20.

Don’t miss out by joining during the 1st year of existence! Look forward to seeing you on Thursday, March 20 at the UT Extension office.

Man Accused of Impersonating a Police Officer

March 17, 2014
Dwayne Page
 Richard Lee Hindsley, Jr.

A drunk driver was arrested for DUI, driving on a revoked license, and impersonating a police officer after the sheriff saw him last week driving at night with flashing blue lights on the dashboard of his car.

47 year old Richard Lee Hindsley, Jr. of Wade Street, Smithville, is charged with a first offense of driving under the influence and a fourth offense of driving on a revoked license. He was further issued citations for unlawfully displaying blue flashing lights, criminal impersonation of a police officer, and violation of the implied consent law. Although Hindsley refused a blood test, the sheriff obtained a search warrant for a forced blood draw on him. Hindsley's bond is $7,500 and he will be in court April 10. Hindsley is also wanted in Wilson County on a separate charge.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that he and a drug detective were on Highway 56 south Tuesday night, March 11 when they spotted a vehicle coming down the road with a flashing blue light on the dashboard. The car was southbound on Highway 56 and turned right onto the Old Blue Springs Road. " I saw it was not a patrol car so I got in behind the vehicle and pulled it over," said Sheriff Ray. "It pulled into a driveway on the Old Blue Springs Road. I got out and noticed the driver, Hindsley was under the influence of an intoxicant. He had an odor of alcohol on him. Hindsley was unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred. Asked why he had a blue light, Hindsley said he was chasing a car, trying to pull it over. Sheriff Ray said Hindsley submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. A computer check revealed that Hindsley's driver's license were revoked for a 1988 DUI in Wilson County. This was his fourth offense for driving on a revoked license. Hindsley also wore clothing that made him appear to be a police officer including a black ball cap bearing initials, boots like law enforcement officers wear, and he was dressed in black.

Hindsley was placed under arrest and his blue light was seized along with his boots, cap, and a laser that goes on a pistol.

Two Caught Sending Drugs in Greeting Card to Prisoners

March 17, 2014
Dwayne Page
Rebecca Marie Dickens
Tammy Elizabeth Burton
Lonnie Lynn Wheeler
Dale Allen Golden
 John Thomas Mason

Two Smithville women are charged with introduction of contraband into the jail after sending a greeting card containing suboxone strips to family members incarcerated there.

27 year old Rebecca Marie Dickens of Forest Avenue and 53 year old Tammy Elizabeth Burton of Restview Avenue are each under a $2,500 bond and they will be in court April 3. They were arrested on Tuesday, March 11.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Dickens and Burton mailed a greeting card to prisoners Corey Dickens and Travis Davenport on Friday March 7. The card arrived at the jail on Monday, March 10. Corey Dickens is Rebecca's husband and Davenport is Burton's son.

Correctional officers found the subxone strips concealed inside the card "They (Dickens and Burton) tore loose one of the double backings in the card and inserted the suboxone strips," said Sheriff Ray

Meanwhile, in another case a prisoner at the jail is charged with assault for hitting another inmate in the cell with him.

38 year old Lonnie Lynn Wheeler of Bright Hill Road, Smithville is under a $2,500 bond and he will be in court on March 20. Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, March 13 a correctional officer saw on a monitor that a cell surveillance camera had been covered. He went to the cell to investigate but saw nothing amiss. After the covering over the camera was removed, the officer returned to the front office and reviewed the video recording from the camera. On the monitor, he saw the victim walking to his bunk and Wheeler coming up behind him. Wheeler then started hitting the inmate.

25 year old Callie Mae Keys of McMinnville is charged with a second offense of driving on a revoked license. Her bond is $3,000 and she will be in court March 20. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, March 12 while sitting at the end of Adcock Cemetery Road, a deputy saw Keys driving a motor vehicle. Having prior knowledge that she did not have a license, the officer conducted a traffic stop. A computer check confirmed that Keys' license were revoked. Her previous driving on revoked charge was on June 11, 2012.

58 year old Dale Allen Golden of North Congress Boulevard is charged with violation of an order of protection. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court March 20. Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, March 13 an officer was dispatched to a residence on North Congress Boulevard where a woman told the deputy that her husband, Golden was trying to get her into the house. The woman has an active order of protection against Golden. Upon arrival, the deputy saw Golden on the front sidewalk. He told the officer that he was trying to get into the house so he could get some clothes. Golden was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

19 year old John Thomas Mason of Roy Womack Road, Smithville has been charged by a sheriff's department drug detective with evading arrest and by a state trooper for leaving the scene of an accident. His bond is $4,000 and he will be in court on March 20.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, March 14 the drug detective tried to stop a 2008 Nissan Altima for a traffic violation. The car crossed over several times into the detective's lane of travel and into the turning lane. As the detective attempted to pull over the automobile on Tiger Drive, it fled traveling at a high rate of speed. The officer initiated a pursuit onto Dry Creek Road, but then terminated the chase. Shortly thereafter, the detective came upon the car which had rolled over on its top in the middle of Dry Creek Road. The driver had run off on foot. After an investigation, the detective learned that Mason had been driving the car. Mason later wrote a statement admitting to these actions, according to Sheriff Ray.

The state trooper that investigated the crash charged Mason with leaving the scene of an accident. According to the warrant, Mason was operating a vehicle on Dry Creek Road, Smithville which was involved in a rollover crash with property damage. Mason left the scene without notifying law enforcement.

42 year old Matthew Lee Spence of Bridgeway Motel, Smithville was cited on March 8 for driving while revoked and for a violation of the light law. Sheriff Ray said that a deputy conducted a traffic stop of Spence on Highway 70 for having a headlight out. A computer check revealed Spence's license was revoked for a prior DUI. One week later on March 15, Spence was charged with driving on a revoked license after he was stopped again. A deputy saw Spence driving a truck on West Broad Street, Smithville. Having prior knowledge that Spence's license was revoked, the officer stopped the truck and placed Spence under arrest. Bond for Spence is $1,500 and he will be in court April 2.

DeKalb West School Science Fair Winners

March 17, 2014
Eighth grade winners
Seventh grader Grayson Redmon won first place for his Science Fair project, "Can Humans Create Earthquakes?")
Alley Reeder, Lexy Gammons ,Dylan Denson ,Braedon Jett, and Noah Roberts,
 Christian Trail, David Garner, Erica Coleman, Haley Dies, and Cody Antoniak.

DeKalb West School held its Science Fair Thursday and Friday, March 13 & 14.

The following are the winners:


1st Caitlin Shoemake: Ring!: It’s a Telephone Made From String
2nd Hudson Moss: From Seeds to Food

First Grade
1st Grant Butterbaugh: Which Melted First?
2nd 1st Grade : Goop

3rd Wesley Kent: Density
Honorable Mention: Jordyn Turbeville- Speed Sound On a String

Second Grade

1st Shelby Starnes:The Phases of the Moon

1st Alex Antoniak: Best Bouncer
2nd Marshall Farler: Earthworms and Light
3rd Riley Fuson: Elephant Toothpaste

Honorable Mention: Kenson Moss- A Battery That Makes Cents
Third Grade

1st Noah Evans:Solar System
2nd Faith Tripp:Volcano

1st Jeanine Boody: Flowers (How Does Your Garden Grow)
1st Ally Griffith :Blown Away
2nd Aniston Farler: Examples of Chemical Reactions
3rd Madison Martin: Mega Foam
Honorable Mention: Alex Tarango- The Miracle Berry
Ellie Vaughn: Germs

Fourth Grade
1st Becca Lawrence: Animals in Tennessee & Their Habitats
2nd Victoria Rodano: Animal Adaptations
3rd Makayla Cook: How to Make a Lava Lamp
Honorable Mention: Allen Curtis-Tornado
Lucas Hale: Crazy Putty

1st Jaden Baines: Fantastic Foamy Fountain
2nd Dawson Bandy: Electromagnet Induction
3rd Brayden Antoniak: Who Tops the Pop?
Honorable Mention: William Butterbaugh -All About the Fold
Iris Farley : Will Borax Crystals Form Fasters in Refrigerator?

Fifth Grade
1st Ciara Young: Ceramic Engineering
2nd Jason Richards: Alligator
3rd Lily Martin: Carnivorous Plants

1st Garrett Hayes: Swimming Raisins
2nd Jaden Johnson: Expanding Soap
3rd Isabella Haugh & Kyndal Cox: Plants
Honorable Mention: Lynsey Ellis & Grace Griffin- Homemade Lava Lamp
Vanessa Harn: Fantastic Plastic

Sixth Grade
1st Haley Dies: Cold and Warm Fronts
2nd Erica Coleman: What Would Happen?
3rd Christian Trail: Magnetism
Honorable Mention:Alley Reeder-The Moon Phases
Dylan Denson: Space

1st Cody Antoniak: Does Heat Make the Hit?
2nd Braedon Jett: Is My Water Safe to Drink?
3rd David Garner: Lunar Eclipse
Honorable Mention: Lexy Gammons-Making Rain
Noah Roberts-Solar Eclipse

Seventh Grade
1st Grayson Redmon: Can Humans Create Earthquakes?
(There were no other 7th grade entries.)

Eighth Grade
1st Jessie Smith: How Do Landfills Work?
2nd Noelle Driver: Earth & Mars
3rd Carrigan Chapman &Savannah Belcher: Neptune

1st Breanna Gibson:Corrosion
2nd Dusten Sutherland & Jose Beckman: Galvanometer

(TOP PHOTO: Eighth grade winners from left to right are Caitlyn Nickel, Jaimie Alexander, Savannah Belcher, Carrigan Chapman, Jose Beckham, Dusten Sutherland, Jesse Smith, Paxton Butler, Breanna Gibson, and Noelle Driver)

(SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP: Seventh grader Grayson Redmon won first place for his Science Fair project, "Can Humans Create Earthquakes?")

(THIRD PHOTO FROM TOP) Pictured left to right are Alley Reeder, Lexy Gammons ,Dylan Denson ,Braedon Jett, and Noah Roberts,

(BOTTOM PHOTO) Pictured left to right are Christian Trail, David Garner, Erica Coleman, Haley Dies, and Cody Antoniak.

WJLE receives Radio Station of the Year Award

March 17, 2014
Reed Vanderpool, Chris Tramel, and Steve Quick of WJLE's Old Time Country Community Radio Show

WJLE Radio was honored with the award for Radio Station of the Year by the North America Country Music Association International for the Old Time Country Community Radio Show program. The award was presented on Mar. 15, during NACMAIs 17th Annual Hall of Fame show at the Country Tonight Theater in Pigeon Forge, TN.

It was an honor, said the shows host Chris Tramel. We met some really nice people over the weekend, and heard some good performances. The award was presented to the shows hosts Tramel, Reed Vanderpool, Steve Quick, and the shows producer Ben Herman. Among the performers on hand at the event, were country music singer/songwriter Kelly Lang, and legendary performer and songwriter Tom T. Hall.

The Old Time Country Community Radio Show airs at 8:00 A.M. each Friday morning on WJLE 101.7/1480 AM and features classic country and bluegrass music, as well as performances by local and up-and-coming artist from around the region. The show also includes interviews and comedy sketches, which feature local people from around DeKalb County.

Pictured Reed Vanderpool, Chris Tramel, and Steve Quick pose with the NACMAI Award. Not pictured is Ben Herman

Chamber Presents Milestone Award to Blood Assurance

March 17, 2014
Chamber Presents Milestone Award to Blood Assurance

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce recently presented a Milestone Award to Blood Assurance Foundation for 15 years of giving back to the community.

A 501 (c)(3) non-profit chartered in 1999, the Blood Assurance Foundation supports programs in the 5 state region served by Blood Assurance. Linda Hisey, Blood Assurance Executive Director of Public Relations and Development along with Bonnie M. Phillips, Blood Assurance Public Relations and Development Associate accepted the award.

For more information about this organization, visit their website at BloodAssurance.org/contribute.

Pictured left to right

Front row:Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, Chamber President Julia
Cantrell, Blood Assurance Reps Linda Hisey & Bonnie Phillips, Chamber Board Member Sherry Harris

Middle row:Chamber Board Members Jason Murphy & Charlotte Parsley,
Chamber Board Sec. Joan Barrett, Chamber Treasurer Susan Young

Back row: Chamber V.P. Jeff Crips, Chamber Board Members Elaine
Swicker & Gail Looper

Outdoor Burning Permits Still Required

March 16, 2014
Dwayne Page
Brush Fire Scorches Property in Keltonburg Area Saturday

A brush fire Saturday scorched property off Creek Road in the Keltonburg area keeping members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department and Forestry Division busy for several hours.

Saturday's wildland fire was one of several reported within the last few weeks locally.

With Spring drawing near, DeKalb County residents will begin to take advantage of the mild weather to do some outdoor work around the home or farm. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry wants to remind citizens that if they are considering doing outdoor burning, a burn permit is required.

To obtain a permit in the City of Smithville, call 215-3000. If you live outside Smithville in DeKalb County call (615) 597-4015 west of the Caney Fork River or (931) 839-2328 east of the Caney Fork River.

In 2013, the Division of Forestry recorded the lowest number of wildland fires since 1927. There were a total of 639 wildfires that burned 9,033 acres (lowest burned acreage was 7,110 in 2003). Increased efforts in fire prevention and suppression contributed to this record low, and landowners getting burn permits to conduct safe debris burning played a major role in that effort.

“We’re hoping to see a continuation of that trend this year and need our citizens’ help,” said state forester Jere Jeter. “Burning leaves and brush that has accumulated around the yard or using fire to clear an old field can be an efficient way to get rid of such vegetation. However, it is very important that citizens practice safe outdoor burning. Obtaining a burn permit in advance of outdoor burning is our way of making the public aware of those recommendations and helping them know when, where, and how it is safe to burn.”

The free burn permits are required in all areas of the state by law until May 15 unless otherwise covered by local ordinances. Residents should check with their city and county government for any local restrictions.

Permits can be obtained online for small scale burning of leaf and brush piles measuring less than 8 feet by 8 feet in area. The online system provides permit access through the weekend and after-work hours for landowners. These permits can be obtained on days and in counties where burn permits are allowed by visiting www.burnsafetn.org. The website is also 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.

The permits can also be obtained by calling your local Division of Forestry office between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday. Permits are generally good for 24 hours and can be issued for weekend burning. Phone numbers for each office can be found in the state government section of your local phone book, or by visiting www.burnsafetn.org.

More than 377,000 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 and callers may experience a delay. The online burn permit system is an alternative for small debris piles.

Once a burn permit is obtained, debris burners should practice common sense while conducting a burn. This includes:

• 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 the fire.
• 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 not only the smart thing to do, but it is also illegal to leave an open fire unattended.

Despite the low number of fires in 2013, escaped debris burns were still the leading cause of wildfires in Tennessee last year accounting for 243 fires that burned nearly 1,600 acres. The Division’s burn permit system has dramatically helped reduce the numbers 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 last year, but accounted for the largest acreage, burning nearly 5,400 acres. Wildland arson is a class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 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, which is celebrating their 100th anniversary as a state agency this year, works to conserve, protect and enhance forests that cover half the state and provide jobs, timber, clean water, wildlife habitat and recreation.

Obtaining a Burning Permit by Phone

Permits are free of charge and may be obtained by calling the phone numbers provided. Burning permits are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except on holidays. Permits may be obtained in advance for weekends and holidays.


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