The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry and the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Fire Prevention are observing National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13), by reminding homeowners to follow simple safety practices to prevent forest fires. The official start of forest fire season in Tennessee is Oct. 15.
“Burning vegetative material that has accumulated around the yard or using fire to clear an old field can be an efficient way to get rid of debris,” said John Kirksey, Fire Chief for the Division of Forestry. “However, this activity needs to be done safely. The division’s burn permitting system focuses attention on the safe use of fire for debris burning.”
Activities requiring a burning permit include unconfined outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste and burning to clear land. Burning permits are free of charge. Citizens can apply for burning permits online or by calling their local Division of Forestry office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The DeKalb County Forestry office phone number is 615-597-4015. Forestry offices are listed in your local phone directory under state government, or can be found by visiting www.burnsafetn.org. The website also includes tips for safe debris burning and provides access to the online permitting system. Permit holders should also check for other restrictions in their locale.
Online permits will only be available for small scale burning of leaf and/or brush piles measuring less than 8 feet by 8 feet in dimensions. These permits can be obtained on days that burn permits are being issued, including after-work hours and through the weekend, by going to www.burnsafetn.org.
“It only takes a couple of minutes to get a burn permit, whether one is obtained by calling in or online” said Kirksey. “Either way it’s important for citizens to know when, where and how it’s safe to conduct a debris burn, and the burn permitting system is our way of getting that information to them.”
Homeowners living in forested communities can take steps to protect themselves and their property. Keeping gutters and rooftops free of debris, maintaining at least two to five feet of none flammable material next to the foundation of the home and clearing away flammable brush at least 30 feet from the house are just a few simple examples of what homeowners can do.
Wildfires are occasionally started by out of control house fires. The state Fire Marshal’s Office is warning citizens to also be aware of fire hazards in their home.
“For many years, Tennessee has occupied an undesirable ranking in the country for fire deaths. Falling asleep while smoking in bed or in a comfortable chair remains a significant cause of fire deaths in Tennessee,” says Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Always make sure your home’s smoke detectors are functioning properly.”
Escaped debris burns are the leading cause of wildfires. 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 are a class C felony punishable by 3 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, visit www.burnsafetn.org.