Beginning Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, a burn permit will be required to start an open air fire within 500 feet of any forest, grassland or woodland. Permits will be issued by phone or through the online system at www.burnsafetn.org if conditions allow. Check local restrictions in your area prior to conducting any burning activity.
For information on what materials may NOT be burned in Tennessee, please visit Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Open Burning Guidelines. To report illegal burning, please call toll-free 1-888-891-TDEC
Tennessee has many types of forests and open areas, from the dense eastern mountain laurel thickets to the remote western cypress swamps. Between these are upland hardwood forests, pine stands, cedar glades, cove hardwoods, bottomland hardwoods and various types of open, brushy and forested land. Their unique characteristics and the variations in topography and weather, make wildland fire suppression in Tennessee quite challenging.
Fire threatens the sustainability of Tennessee’s forests. The Division of Forestry protects this resource with personnel and equipment. Employees are involved in fire readiness, wildfire suppression, training volunteer fire fighters, fire investigation and prosecution of arsonists.
Wildland fires in Tennessee are suppressed by mechanical and manual means. Forest fires in mountainous terrain are often fought by crews using hand tools. On rolling and flat terrain, bulldozers are used to attack wildfires by making fire lines. In either situation, a firebreak is cleared two to ten feet in width down to mineral soil. Sometimes fire is set along the firebreak to widen it and burn out fuels ahead of the wildfire. Wherever fires are accessible by roads or fields, water is sprayed on fires from small pumper units carried on pickup trucks.
Division employees work in tandem with the state’s Volunteer Fire Departments and Rescue Squads to protect forest resources as well as the homes and other structures in the path of wildfire. When houses are built in the woods, a situation called wildland/urban interface is created. There are steps homeowners can take to help make their houses safe from wildfire. The National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Protection Program web site provides information on protecting your home from wildfire.
Tennessee typically has a spring and fall fire season. The spring fire season, prompted by warming weather, begins about Feb. 15 and ends near May 15, when the forest has usually “greened up” enough to prevent the rapid spread of forest fires. Fall fire season begins around Oct. 15, when the leaves begin to fall and usually ends Dec. 15 due to shorter, cooler, wetter days. Because of the variations in weather, wildland fires can occur any time during the year. It is important to note that a burning permit is required for outdoor burning during the period between Oct. 15th and May 15.