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Foresters offer reminder: Foliage season marks start of fire season

State forestry officials are reminding Tennesseans that mid-October marks the start of forest fire season. During official fire season, Oct. 15 through May 15, state law requires citizens to obtain a burning permit before conducting any open, outdoor 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. Residents 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. Forestry offices are listed in local phone directores under state government, or can be found by visiting www.burnsafetn.org. The website also includes tips for safe debris burning and provide access to the online permitting system. Permit holders should also check for other restrictions in their locale.
“The burning permit system is a very important wildfire prevention tool,” said state forester Steve Scott. “Getting a burning permit is more than just a requirement of state law. It serves as a useful way for us to communicate with citizens about how, when and where it is safe to burn.”
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.
No outside burning is allowed in Carter County between May 1 and Sept. 30.
Persons in Carter County seeking a burn permit can call 753-2851. Burning 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.
Earlier this year, the Division of Forestry deployed 51 new “pumper units” statewide. The units consist of a pick-up mounted tank, pump and sprayer capable of dispensing water or foam. The new equipment is used in wildland firefighting but is particularly beneficial in areas where homes and other structures are near wooded or grassy areas.
So far this year, more than 1,900 fires have burned an estimated 29,300 acres in Tennessee. Escaped debris burns are the leading cause of fire; however, 35 percent of the fires this year are due to arson, which is a class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017.
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.
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.