High temps, lack of rain bump up Tennessee burn permit season

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Record high temperatures and the lack of rain have created an increased risk of wildland fires. The Tennessee Division of Forestry now requiring a permit, starting Monday Sept. 23, for any outdoor burning.

Usually, permits are only required from Oct. 15 to May 15; the state saying requiring permits this early is a precautionary measure as a way to protect from any wildfire threats.

Right now is our fire season and the recent weather brings back memories of 2016 and the Walland wildfire.

RELATED: Walland Elementary students and teachers reflect on wildfire one year later

“When we had the really dry conditions and it’s headed toward that direction. High temperatures, low humidity, lack of rain, it’s getting to be a real concern,” said Chief Doug McClanahan of the Blount County Fire Protection District.

Chief McClanahan says their five brush trucks are stocked with hundreds of gallons of water and tools for firefighters to hike in, in case an open burn gets out of control, “I would say right now, if you don’t have to burn, don’t. Our first line of defense is a burn permit. If you’re unable to get a permit, do not burn.”

So how do we burn responsibly now that burn permits are available? Foresters say to watch the weather, as well as call and check with fire officials every day.

RELATED: Brush fire contained at Petree’s Tree Service in Blount County

“Be safe. If you do get a burn permit where you’re at, make sure you take some time and think about what you’re doing. You really need to notify your neighbors, that’s a law. Make sure your neighbors know that you’re going to burn so they don’t panic. It’s a good idea if you’re burning a large brush pile or in a high visibility area to call your fire department and make sure they know you’re going to burn so they don’t think there’s a fire and rush out,” said Nathan Waters with the Tennessee Division of Forestry.

The state says mornings and early evenings are usually good times to burn because winds are calmer and the humidity is higher.

“I’m concerned and people tend to, if they get out and burn and it gets out of control, they want to wait a little while before they call because they’re embarrassed or they think they can get it out. The number one thing is once that fire becomes out of control, dial 911 right then and let us head that direction to hopefully save property and save lives,” added Chief McClanahan.

Foresters say make sure you don’t have too large of a brush pile, keep tools like a hose and rake close by and never leave the fire unattended.

“You want to try and rake a line around it, or take your hose and wet a line around it, if it’s a small fire and before you leave your fire, you want to make sure it’s completely out. You know, put your hand in it. If it’s not out, it can always flare back up,” said Waters.

Permits are not required for burning containers like a metal fire pit or barrel with mesh screen covers.

To apply for a Tennessee burn permit or for more information, click here.

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