State, local agencies encourage precaution for outdoor fires

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, October 27, 2016


With a dry fall season across the state, the risk of outdoor fires has local and state agencies asking citizens to be extra careful the next couple of weeks.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency announced that a little precaution can help stop the threat of outdoor fires.
“Drought and dry conditions have contributed to 837 wildfires burning 20,000 acres in Tennessee so far this year,” TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan said in a release issued to the Elizabethton Star. “We are asking everyone spending any time outdoors this season to be aware of the fire risk and to take extra care with potential sources of fire ignition. This will help us avoid needless and potentially deadly wildfires.”
The fire season got off to an early start this year, according to James Heaton with the Tennessee Division of Forestry.
“The fire season started earlier this year with a couple of fires in August,” Heaton said Thursday. “It’s been dry over the past week so we ask residents to take caution when burning.”
From October 15 to May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire in Tennessee within 500 feet of a forest, grassland or woodland must, by law, secure a burning permit through the Division of Forestry.
Heaton added that anyone needing a burn permit in Carter or Johnson counties can call the division’s local office at (423) 725-3281 or visit online. Permits are free of charge.
“Days like today are the best for burns,” Heaton said about Thursday’s weather forecast. “There’s just enough rain to stop the sparks. We’re still holding on to leaves now, but once they come down, people will want to burn them. We just ask they take the right steps before a burn.”
Heaton offered a variety of tips for residents to use while doing an open-air fire. While Thursday proved to be ideal, he mentioned that citizens need to refrain from burning on dry, windy days and burn later in the evening. According to the Division of Forestry, humidity begins to increase typically after 5 p.m.
Residents are also asked to establish control lines around the fire, Heaton said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office, a division of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, also offered tips for the public, including:
• Have an adult present at all times when a bonfire, chiminea, fire pit or outdoor fireplace is burning.
• Keep children and pets at least three feet away from open flames.
• Dried flowers, cornstalks, crepe paper and other types of fall decor are highly flammable and should be kept a safe distance, at least three feet, from open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
• Consider using battery-operated flameless candles and solar-powered patio (tiki) torches outside in place of an open flame. Flameless candles come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and are a safer alternative.
• It is safest to use battery-operated candles or glow sticks in a jack-o’-lantern. If you use a flame candle, use extreme caution and keep them well attended at times.
• A grill should be placed well away from the home and out from under leaves and overhanging branches.
• If using a charcoal grill, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
• Never leave a grill unattended.
• Never park a vehicle over a pile of leaves. The heat from the vehicle’s catalytic converter or exhaust system could ignite the leaves below.
State Parks, including Roan Mountain State Park, are also asking visitors to be observant with campfires in the campgrounds.
Tennessee State Parks also offered tips to attendees, telling individuals to use designated areas, be responsible, ensure a campfire has been completely extinguished before leaving and to play it safe by having a bucket and water nearby.

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