KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Fire departments in East Tennessee want you to be extra cautious this time of year and want to make sure you know the rules when it comes to outdoor burning.  

Assistant Chief Mark Wilbanks with the City of Knoxville Fire Department said the weather has a big impact on when and where it’s appropriate to have an outdoor fire.  

“It is an especially kind of dry year for us,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of rain. So that means that we have to think a little bit more when we’re burning outside.” 

It’s that time of year when many may want to have an outdoor fire to sit around with family and friends, but as Wilbanks explains, dry and windy conditions can make it dangerous to do so. 

“There is a concern when you burn outside, especially on a day like today when it’s a little bit windy, the embers can travel, catch grass, and things like that on fire. So, you really have to think about what you’re doing,” said Wilbanks.

Daily burn bans can be issued in each county under certain weather conditions. The Tennesee Department of Agriculture has an online burn ban map which is updated every hour where people can find any active bans.  

Wilbanks said, “If you live inside of Knox County, you can call County Air Quality (865-215-5900) and see if there is a burn ban or not going on and they can tell you whether or not you can burn. You do have to have a permit to burn in the county.” 

He adds that within city limits you can have a fire pit, but it can’t be more than 24 inches high and 36 inches wide and it must be 25 feet away from any building.  

Make sure any dried leaves or brush are picked up near the area. You must also have a fire extinguisher or water hose nearby just in case you need it.  

Since departments see an uptick in fires during the colder months, they all have to team up to respond during emergencies, 

“We’re part of the Tennessee Statewide Mutual Aid, which means if an organization such as Gatlinburg Fire, Pigeon Forge Fire, Sevier County called, we would be able to respond to those areas to assist with our wildland crews, our brush crews, and those types of things like that,” said Wilbanks.

Fire crews are ready, but you should be on guard too. This week is Fire Prevention Week in Tennessee, which helps bring awareness of how Tennesseans can focus on fire safety to reduce the risk of home fires. 

Wilbanks also shared several tips if you use any kind of space heater to warm your home this fall. He said to make sure they’re at least three feet from any combustible items and don’t ever plug space heaters into extension cords.  

“Those put an extra draw on your electrical system and can cause the extension cord to catch on fire or the heater to catch on fire, or even your outlet to catch on fire,” he explained.

Wilbanks added those space heaters can burn you. So always keep those out away from the wall and make sure children and everything else stay away from them. 

Space heaters have added risks, but heating systems can be just as dangerous the first time it is turned on for the season. If enough dirt or dust builds up throughout the rest of the year, it can catch fire once the system is turned on. 

The best thing to do according to the fire department is to call a qualified service person once a year to inspect the system before you turn the thermostat up. 

It’s also a good time to ensure you have working smoke alarms throughout your home. They’re the most reliable way to get people out of the house to safety during a fire. You can buy smoke alarms at most big box stores and thanks to the state fire marshal’s office, in Tennessee you can also request a free alarm for your home here.