TENNESSEE (WATE) — As fall gets underway and the leaves begin to fall, it’s a good time to remember the rules around burning in East Tennessee.

According to the Tennessee Division of Forestry, debris burning is a primary cause of wildfires every year in the state. The division adds that fire can be an effective tool when used properly however the best intentions can produce disastrous results when safety precautions are not taken. 

Between October 15 to May 15, debris burn permits are required from the Division of Forestry for anyone starting an open-air fire within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland. According to the state, permits are not needed for burning in containers such as a metal barrel with a ½” mesh screen cover.

Those who wish to burn within a city are advised to contact city authorities about any local burning ordinances. This is because many towns and cities have their own burning regulations that supersede the Division of Forestry.

The Division of Forestry offers the following tips for safely conducting a debris burn:

  • Check with local authorities to make sure there are no local restrictions on burning currently in place.
  • Notify your fire department and neighbors to let them know of your plans to burn
  • Do not burn on windy days
  • Be aware of the weather conditions
  • Establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil at least five feet wide around burn piles
  • Keep fire containment equipment on hand during the fire
  • Stay until the fire is completely out.

To get a permit, click here or call (865) 429-7020.

If you want to burn within the city limits of the following cities, you need to contact their fire department to obtain a permit instead of the Division of Forestry.

The Division of Forestry also has a dashboard showing the current burn bans within the state. The bans apply to all open-air burning including leaf and woody debris and construction burning, campfires, outdoor grills and other fire activity outside of municipalities where additional local ordinances apply. To see the dashboard, click here.

The Division of Forestry also offers some alternatives to burning as some kinds of debris including, leaves, grass and stubble, can be of more value if not burned. Composting can produce valuable matter that can be used to enrich the soil. It can also help extend the useful life of landfills. In addition, tree branches, trunks, and brush can sometimes be chipped up and blown back into the woods or collected and hauled away.