Tennessee Observes National Fire Prevention Week by Reminding Citizens to Burn Safe

Wednesday, October 09, 2013 | 11:06 am

-TDA’s Division of Forestry begins requiring burn permits Oct. 15-

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry and the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Fire Prevention are observing National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12), by reminding homeowners to follow simple safety practices to prevent wildfires. The official start of wildfire season in Tennessee is Oct. 15.

“Burning vegetative material that has accumulated around the yard or using fire to clear an old field can be an efficient way to get rid of debris,” State Forester Jere Jeter said. “However, this activity needs to be done safely. The division’s burn permit system focuses attention on the safe use of fire for debris burning.”

Activities requiring a burn permit include unconfined outdoor burning of brush, leaves, and untreated wood waste and burning to clear land. Burn permits are free of charge. Citizens 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 your local phone directory under state government, or can be found by visiting www.burnsafetn.org. The website also includes tips for safe debris burning and provides access to the online permitting system. Permit holders should also check for other restrictions in their locale as some counties and municipalities have their own regulations.

Using the online permit system is a great way to avoid heavy call volume which often occurs on Fridays as residents prepare to burn leaf and brush piles over the weekend. Over 40,000 permits were issued online last year, and the system has the capacity to handle much more than that. Permits issued over the phone or online are the same. However, 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.  Online permits, as well as phone permits, are issued only when conditions are conducive to safe burning. Online permits may be issued after-work hours and through the weekend, by going to www.burnsafetn.org.

“It only takes a couple of minutes to get a burn permit, whether one is obtained by calling in or online” said Jeter. “Either way it’s important for citizens to know when, where and how it’s safe to conduct a debris burn, and the burn permitting system is our way of getting that information to them.”

Homeowners living in forested communities should take steps to protect themselves and their property before a wildfire affects their area. Keeping gutters and rooftops free of debris, maintaining at least two to five feet of non-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. These tips, plus many more, can be found on the division’s burnsafetn.org website under the “How to Protect Your Home & Community From Wildfire” section.

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. “Be mindful of possible fire hazards in your home and always make sure to have working smoke alarms installed.”

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 3 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.