With spring’s arrival Thursday, March 20, state forester Jere Jeter is reminding citizens that if they are considering doing outdoor cleanup that includes burning, a burn permit is required through May 15.
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.
Just last month, the Metro Moore County Fire Department was called to the scene of a brushfire on Fletcher Rd., near Raysville Rd. in Moore County. According to Moore County Fire Chief Mark Neal, firefighters managed to get the blaze under control in about 45 minutes, but not before approximately 20 acres had been burned.
The Moore County Fire Department was assisted by the Tullahoma Fire Department, the North Franklin Fire Department and the Tennessee Division of Forestry, along with the Metro Moore County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
As a reminder, Chief Neal said that burn permits are required here from Oct. 15 to May 15. They may be obtained by calling 1-877-350-BURN.
Under state jurisdiction outside of Moore County, the telephone numbers to call for free state burn permits in this area are included 1-877-350-2876 for Bedford County; 1-877-731-2221 for Coffee County; and (931) 598-5535 for Franklin County.
The permits are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except on holidays. Permits may be obtained in advance for weekends and holidays.
In 2013, the Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry recorded the lowest number of wildland fires since 1927. According to Jeter, 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,” Jeter said, “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,” he said. “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.”
Other information provided by the state Forestry Division:
State 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 the 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.
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:
—Establishing a control line around the fire, down to bare soil before conducting the burn.
—Notifying neighbors and local fire departments in advance as a courtesy.
—Having tools on hand such as a leaf rake and garden hose or bucket of water to help control the fire.
—Watching for changing weather conditions as winds can blow the fire in the wrong direction.
—Always staying 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. 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.