State says early burn permits now required

State says early burn permits now required
Nashville – Due to higher than normal wildfire danger in West Tennessee caused by unusually dry conditions, state Forestry officials today announced the early implementation of burning restrictions for that region.  
Effective Oct.  4, citizens in counties whose borders are entirely west of the Tennessee River are required to obtain a burning permit from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry. Permits are required before conducting any outdoor, open burning of debris within 500 feet of woodlands, grasslands or forestlands.
“Recently we’ve seen some elevated wildfire activity in our West Tennessee district, and are concerned about the potential for high wildfire danger due to the current and forecast dry conditions,” said State Forester Steve Scott. “We want to be proactive by helping citizens determine when and where it’s safe to burn. We are taking these steps to help undercut the threat of wildfires caused by debris burning before they happen, and to protect lives and property.”  
Typically, burning permits are not required by the state Division of Forestry except during official fire season, which runs Oct. 15 through May 15 each year. However, under state law the State Forester can prescribe other periods of time for requiring burning permits.
Citizens can apply for burning permits by calling their local Division of Forestry office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Forestry offices are listed in your local phone directory under state government, or can be found by visiting www.burnsafetn.org, which also includes tips for safe debris burning.  
Activities requiring a burning permit include, but are not limited to unconfined, outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste and burning to clear land.  
Burning permits are required in most areas unless superseded by local ordinance, so citizens are encouraged to also check for any restrictions by municipalities. So far this year 275 fires have burned an estimated 1,235 acres in West Tennessee.  Escaped debris burns accounted for a majority (53 percent) of those fires; however, 12 percent of the wildfires this year have been due to equipment and 14 percent have been due to arson. Woods arson is a class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017.
Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50.
For more information, visit the Division of Forestry’s wildfire safety website at www.burnsafetn.org.
For more information about other programs and services of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture visit www.TN.gov/agriculture.

WCP 10.05.10

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