EMA Director discusses what residents can, cannot burn

Published 9:45 am Thursday, December 3, 2015

Contributed Photo This is an example of one of the illegal burns to which EMA staff have responded in Carter County.

Contributed Photo This is an example of one of the illegal burns to which EMA staff have responded in Carter County.

In response to several incidents throughout the year, Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Smith wants to differentiate between materials that are legal and illegal to burn.
“I just want to remind people of what they can and can’t burn and that it’s for everyone’s safety,” Smith said.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation standards state that it may be okay to burn leaves, branches, tree limbs, twigs, lawn clippings, woody vegetation, clean unpainted and uncoated wood or untreated lumber. To see if it is an appropriate material and time of year, and if a burn permit is required, contact the Tennessee Department of Forestry at 423-725-3281. Cities may have specific restrictions as well, so if you are uncertain, contact the local fire department.
From October 15 through May 15, burn permits are required for anyone burning within 500 feet of a forest or grassland, but they are not required for burning in certain containers.
“You can apply for a permit online, and it’s not really a difficult process,” Smith said.
Illegal burning can lead to fines up to $25,000. The reason to burn safe materials is to avoid air contamination, to protect the environment, to maintain safety in the community and to avoid explosions
In the state of Tennessee, it is improper to burn tires and rubber products, vinyl siding and shingles, plastics and synthetic materials, paper products, cardboard and newspaper, asphalt shingles, asbestos-containing materials, paints, agricultural chemicals, aerosol cans, buildings, trash and wires. Included in this list are leaves, branches and trees not grown on site.
“We see people burning these materials year round,” Smith said. “We haven’t had a lot of complaints, but we have had several incidents.”
He said he has personally been called to at least to sites in which people have cleared out their homes and burned everything they did not want, which led to exploding cans of expired food and toxic fumes from various materials.
Instead of burning illegal materials, TDEC recommends disposing of trash, recyclables and compost properly.
To report illegal burning, call your local city fire department or volunteer fire department.
For more information on outdoor burning, call TDEC at 1-888-891-8332 or visit www.tn.gov/environment/air.

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