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Consumers Urged to Follow Safe Burning Practices with Start of Tennessee’s Wildfire Season Oct. 15

Always Obtain a Debris Burn Permit Before Burning Leaves
Thursday, October 14, 2021 | 10:33am

NASHVILLE — With the official start of Tennessee’s wildfire season on Friday, October 15, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office join other state and local agencies to remind Tennesseans that a debris burn permit is required before burning leaf and brush piles starting October 15.

“Tennesseans can stay fire-safe and follow the law by always obtaining a debris burn permit before burning leaves,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary Farley. “Remember to incorporate basic fire safety measures into your outdoor agenda and help prevent a potentially tragic wildfire from  occurring.”

From October 15 through May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire in Tennessee within 500 feet of a forest, grassland or woodland must by law secure a burn permit. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry provides burn permits for leaf and brush piles online at no charge. The online system for obtaining a permit can be found at

Tennesseans should remember that permits are issued only when conditions are conducive to safe burning. Consumers who live inside city limits may have additional restrictions and should check with local officials or fire departments before burning.

Before burning, follow these precautions to help ensure outdoor burning is conducted properly:

  • Avoid burning on dry and/or windy days.
  • Burn late in the day after the wind has quieted and humidity begins to increase, usually after 5:00 p.m. Check to see if weather changes are expected. Outdoor burning should be postponed if there are shifts in wind direction, increased wind speed or wind gusts.
  • Before doing any burning, establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil at least five feet wide around any burn barrels and even wider around brush piles and other piled debris to be burned. The larger the debris pile, the wider the control line needs to be to ensure that burning materials will not be blown or roll off the pile into vegetation outside the line.
  • Stay with all outdoor fires until they are completely out.
  • Keep water and hand tools ready in case your fire should attempt to spread. If you burn in a burn barrel or other trash container, be sure it is equipped with a half-inch mesh screen or metal grid to keep burning material contained.
  • Stay abreast of wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and burn bans.
  • Be aware of where your smoke is going. Avoid burning when your smoke will be bothersome to neighbors or sensitive locations such as highways.

A list of materials that may not be burned can be found in the open burning guidelines from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Anyone with information about arson activity should contact the Arson Hotline (1-800-762-3017).