This time last year, East Tennessee was bone dry as the state teetered on the edge of a terrible fire season.
Now, fire officials hope a wet fall could limit autumn fires. Oct. 15 marks the official start of the fall season, according to the Department of Agriculture. After Oct. 15, forestry officials begin requiring burn permits.
Local counties and cities all have different rules for burning. For example, Knox County requires a burn permit year-round.
“Last year, we were extremely dry and very aware, trying to push our prevention efforts,” said Assistant District Forester Nathan Waters.
Waters said the fire season outlook is much better for 2017. A year ago, all of East Tennessee was under some level of drought warning, and had only received 32 inches of rain on the year. In 2017, the region has seen 42 inches of rain, and the drought is significantly reduced.
“It is wetter in the month of October so far,” said Mike Witcher, 10News meteorologist. “And that’s great news, because October is usually our driest month of the season.”
Typically, Knoxville sees 2.5 inches of rain in October. Just on Sunday, the remnants of Hurricane Nate dumped 2.16 inches.
“So obviously breaking the daily record, and almost getting what we get in the month of October,” said Witcher.
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Waters said high winds felling trees could increase the available fuels, but wet weather means larger trees are less likely to catch fire in a blaze. These fuels burn longer once ignited, and can increase the severity of a fire.
The Division of Forestry expects fewer fires than in 2016, but still wants to stress preparation.
“That’s what we thought a lot last year, and it’s what we’re thinking this year is just prevention,” said Waters. "If we can prevent fires, that saves money in the long run, and that's what we want to do."
Fire officials also recommend preparing your home to reduce the risk of fire through the Firewise Communities program.