Burn ban expires in most of East Tennessee

Dec. 15, 2016: A governor's regional burn ban is set to expire Thursday night as Tennessee's wildfire season finally winds down.

A governor’s regional burn ban covering about half the state will expire as scheduled at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

Gov. Bill Haslam issued the ban on open burning for 51 counties on Nov. 14. Four counties were removed from the burn ban on Dec. 7 to speed up recovery from recent tornadoes.

The governor’s regional burn ban will expire in the following counties at the end of the day Thursday: Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Cannon, Carter, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Cumberland, Dekalb, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Macon, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sevier, Smith, Sullivan, Trousdale, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Washington and White

15 of those counties are also under a Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner’s Burn Ban. That ban also expires at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, except in Blount and Sevier counties at the county mayors’ requests. 

The burn bans in the Cherokee National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area have also been lifted. At this time, the burn ban remains in place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For Nathan Waters, with the Tennessee Forestry Division, it signals the end of a long and arduous fire season.

"We think it's as safe as it's going to get right now," Waters said. 

But Waters said with the major fires under control, it doesn't mean it's time to let their guard down.

"If it's ok to burn there by local regulations, then it's ok to have a campfire," Waters said.  "To do any type of outdoor burning, leaves, vegetation you still need a permit."

Knox County Air Quality Management issued its own county-wide burn ban on Nov. 1 due to severe drought conditions. 

Knox County officials said Thursday they will also lift their burn ban with the state.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park issued a ban on burning in the Smokies backcountry on Nov. 1, and extended the ban to the entire park on Nov. 15. Park officials said Thursday they are "assessing" the ban, but it is currently still in effect. 

More than 44,000 acres in Tennessee burned. Now, Waters, and the crews that worked long hours fighting the fires, will begin to move on.

"We never want to see property damage and never want to see loss of life," Waters said. "A lot of us will carry this with us until we die, to our graves."

For more information, visit burnsafetn.org.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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