NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry and the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Fire Prevention are reminding homeowners to follow simple safety practices to prevent forest fires. The official start of forest fire season in Tennessee is Oct. 15.
“Because of dry conditions and the traditional start of fire season, it’s important that citizens call for a burning permit and follow outdoor burning safety recommendations,” said state forester Steve Scott. “Many areas of the state are very dry and the permit system helps us communicate to the public when and where it is safe to burn.”
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 by calling their local Division of Forestry office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The number is 765-7373. Visit www.burnsafetn.org for tips for safe debris burning.
New this year is the automated online system. The 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. The system was developed to more efficiently issue permits to landowners conducting small scale debris burns, and to provide better 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.
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 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, visit www.BurnSafeTN.org.