BREAKING NEWS

East Tennessee homeowners advised to take precautions ahead of fire season

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - In just over a week homeowners across the state and in East Tennessee will need a permit to burn in their backyard. October 15 marks the beginning of fire season which runs through May 15.

There are already wildfires burning. Crews in Sevier County are battling a 40-acre fire. Sarah Jenkins submitted a Report It photo saying she could see smoke from her backyard. Thankfully firefighters say no structures are threatened, but it's still an active situation.

All this comes nearly a year after the Gatlinburg wildfires and it's no wonder that some homeowners are worried and taking added precautions.

State foresters say we're not at high fire risk right now, but there's always the potential this time of year. Conditions in East Tennessee are ordinary, but we need to still be careful.

The Clark family of Sevier County has owned a farm for years. One of their chores includes piling up branches, trees and brush.

"When you burn brush it makes everything come back greener," said Sandy Clark.

She has a pile of fallen trees that she's waiting to burn, but after what happened in Gatlinburg in 2016, she's going to burn it cautiously.

"Heartbroken by it. There were so many people who lost their lives," added Clark.

State foresters say East Tennessee is starting to dry out.

"Right now we don't have a four or five high fire danger that's saying we can't burn. We still have green leaves, we had a dry week, hopefully, we're going to get some rain this next week," said Nathan Waters, Assistant District Forester with Division of Forestry.

In the past month, Waters says they've worked three escape debris fires.

"None of them have gotten out and gotten very big because people know if it does get out, the first thing that you need to do is call 911," he said.

There are no burn restrictions as of now, but firefighters say come October 15, people need to be mindful when burning.

Homeowners need to check with local fire departments if it's okay to burn, let their neighbors know, watch the weather and make sure not to burn when it's too windy, as well as establishing strong control lines.

A fire needs to be done 500 feet away from a forest, grassland or any kind of structure.

"Do I have enough people on hand? Do I have tools on hand? Do I have a water hose that'll reach over there?" said Waters.

State foresters say the most important thing to remember is to stay with your fire until every ember is out.

"I think everybody's more cautious about it and making sure that it's not too big," said Clark.

The issuance of burn permits in many counties or cities can change on a day to day basis. To see the latest on restrictions or current burn rules, click here.


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