Burning permits required as fall fire season begins

From Staff Reports

   NASHVILLE -- Oct. 15 marked the official start of forest fire season in Tennessee according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry. State law requires that citizens first obtain a burning permit before conducting any type of open, outdoor burning.
   "The burning permit system is a very important tool for us in preventing the kind of wildfire activity that we saw last year," said State Forester Steve Scott. "Not only is getting a burning permit required by state law, but it serves as a useful way for us to communicate with citizens about when and where it is safe to burn."
   Burning permits are required in all areas of the state unless restricted by local ordinances. Citizens can obtain a verbal burning permit by simply calling their local state Division of Forestry office listed in the phone directory under state government. Residents in Crockett, Gibson, Haywood, Lake, Obion and Tipton counties can call toll-free 1-877-6PERMIT. Activities requiring a burning permit include, but are not limited to:
   * unconfined, outdoor burning of debris;
   * burning to clear land; and
   * burning by construction crews.
   According to Scott, more than 1,400 fires have burned nearly 14,000 acres of forestland in Tennessee in 2002. Although recent rains have significantly reduced fire activity, forestry officials say that unless regular rainfall occurs throughout the fire season, leaves and other forest fuels can quickly dry out and become a fire hazard.
   Last year, nearly 42,000 acres burned during a six-week period from late October to December, making 2001 one of the worst fire seasons on record with a total of 68,000 acres destroyed.
   Arson accounts for more than half of all forest fires says forestry officials. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the Tennessee Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-877-762-3017.
   Fire season runs from Oct. 15 to May 15. During this time, persons burning without a permit are subject to a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine or 30 days in jail. For more information on burning permits, call your local state Division of Forestry office listed in the telephone directory under state government, or visit TDA's Web site at www.state.tn.us/agriculture and select the Forestry Division link.