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State Forester urges citizens to be safe with fire Tennessee burn permit season begins early

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Due to weeks of higher than average temperatures and extremely dry conditions, Tennessee officials have moved up the time for the requirement of a burn permit.
Beginning on Monday, September 23, a permit will be required for outdoor burning, which is almost a month before the official “fire season.”
According to officials, a permit will now be required before initiating an open-air fire within 500 feet of any forest, grassland or woodland.
“Although Tennessee has not seen an increase in wildland fires, safety is our top priority. The early launch is a precautionary measure to help protect our state and citizens from any wildfire threat. The Division of Forestry will continue to monitor the weather situation and will not issue permits on days when burning carries a greater risk,” the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said.
Typically, burn permits are required across the state from October 15-May 15. While Tennessee has not seen an increase in the number of wildfires, and indices right now do not suggest a high fire danger, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry decided to put burn permits in place early as a precaution.
Of course, if current weather conditions continue as leaf fall begins, fire danger may escalate.
“This precautionary measure will be beneficial as we continue to monitor fire risk,” State Forester David Arnold said. “The burn permit system focuses attention on safety, and it’s important for citizens to know when, where, and how to burn debris safely. Caution and conservative judgment should always be used when working with fire.”
Obtaining a burn permit is free, fast, and simple. If you are burning a leaf or brush pile that is smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet in size, our online system provides a quick and efficient way to apply.
For a larger burn, recidents may call their local Division of Forestry to burn permit phone number Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The online system and phone numbers can be found at
More than 300,000 permits are issued each year, and they are only issued when conditions are conducive to safe burning. If you live inside city limits, there may be additional restrictions. Check with your municipality before you burn.
For a list of materials that may not be burned, check the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s open burning guidelines at
The department stated that “Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by 3 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 at 1-800-762-3017. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, and you may remain anonymous when providing information. Cash awards are offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction. To report illegal burning, please call 1-888-891-TDEC.”
Visit for additional tips to burn safely and to protect your community.