“Burning vegetative material that has accumulated around the yard or using fire to clear an old field can be an efficient tool to get rid of such debris,” said State Forester Steven Scott. “However, it is very important that citizens practice safe outdoor burning recommendations. Obtaining a burn permit in advance of debris 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.”
The free burn permits are required in all areas of the state by law from October 15 until May 15 unless otherwise covered by local ordinances, so residents should check with their local government for other restrictions. The permits can be obtained by calling toll free 1-877-350-BURN (2876) or by visiting www.BurnSafeTN.org. Permits are generally good for 24 hours and can be issued for weekend burns.
More than 415,000 permits were issued last year for activities that included unconfined, outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste and burning to clear land.
Once a burn permit is obtained, debris burners should practice common sense while conducting a burn. This includes:
- Establish a control line around the fire, down to bare soil before conducting the burn.
- Notify neighbors and local fire departments in advance as a courtesy.
- Have tools on hand such as a leaf rake and garden hose or bucket of water to help control the fire.
- Watch for changing weather conditions as winds can blow the fire in the wrong direction.
Always stay 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.
Escaped debris burns are the leading cause of wildfires in Tennessee. The Division’s burn permit system has dramatically helped reduce the numbers of escaped burns since the program began in 1995. 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.