Burn ban issued for 51 counties: What is allowed?

A statewide burn ban has been issued in Tennessee, but what exactly does that mean? Can you grill? Use a Turkey fryer? Start a campfire?

Gov. Bill Haslam declared a regional ban on burning in 51 counties Monday in response to ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout Middle and East Tennessee. 

The ban, which covers more than half the state, is effective immediately. The ban is in effect until Dec. 15. 

Residents in any of the 51 counties are not allowed to conduct any open-air burning. That includes campfires and burning of brush, vegetation, household waste or construction debris. 

"A fire pit area, even if it's lined with bricks or metal, we ask that you don't burn," Capt. D.J. Corcoran, with the Knoxville Fire Department, said. "That's an open flame, and embers can seep up into the airway."

Using gas and barbecue grills for making food is okay, but please make sure it is contained and fully extinguished when finished.

"Move those grills at least 10 to 15 foot away from any structures, any overhead trees and away from any dry vegetation on the ground," Corcoran said. "Ask you that you sweep out an area on the concrete or asphalt."

The same is true for turkey fryers, with Thanksgiving approaching, but you should place it on a concrete surface 15-20 feet away from any structures. Backyard fire pits not used for cooking are not permitted.

Indoor fireplaces are also allowed, but please ensure your chimney has been recently cleaned and there's a cap on top, to keep any embers from floating into the air, which could possibly land in and ignite dry vegetation.

Officials caution smokers about tossing cigarettes outside of their vehicles. Those lit cigarettes can blow into debris along the roadside and start a fire.

"We've answered several interstate fires," Corcoran said, because of cigarettes flicked out of car windows. "Fires along the side of the interstate in the grass, mulch areas in town."

The Tennessee Valley Authority also issued a burn ban Tuesday on all public lands, recreation areas and facility reservations it manages across its seven-state service area in the Tennessee Valley. The ban prohibits campfires, barbecues, smoking or any other flame-producing activity until further notice.

TVA said it is also temporarily closing public access to affected recreation areas and facility reservations "in locations where fire danger is extreme." TVA said it would close public areas at Raccoon Mountain near Chattanooga, including trails and the recreation area, at sunset Tuesday. 

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is currently fighting 67 wildfires across nearly 16,000 acres in the Cumberland and East Tennessee districts. 

The TDA Division of Forestry also said it does not expect to issue any burn permits in counties not included in the burn ban until the state receives "substantial precipitation." 

A violation of a burn ban is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and 11 months imprisonment. 

The full list of counties under the regional burn ban: 

Anderson
Bledsoe
Blount
Bradley
Campbell
Cannon
Carter
Claiborne
Clay
Cocke
Coffee
Cumberland
Dekalb
Fentress
Franklin
Grainger
Greene
Grundy
Hamblen
Hamilton
Hancock
Hawkins
Jackson
Jefferson
Johnson
Knox
Loudon
Macon
Marion
McMinn
Meigs
Monroe
Morgan
Overton
Pickett
Polk
Putnam
Rhea
Roane
Scott
Sequatchie
Sevier
Smith
Sullivan
Trousdale
Unicoi
Union
Van Buren
Warren
Washington
White

(© 2016 WBIR)


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