Fire danger conditions in East Tennessee continue to deteriorate, according to a news release Friday from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division.
Because of fire weather danger and multiple fires across East Tennessee, a number of counties — including Sullivan, Hawkins, Washington, Greene, Hancock and Unicoi — will not be issuing burn permits through the weekend. The Forestry Division said these restrictions include its online system available at burnsafetn.org, as well as call-in requests to Division of Forestry county offices.
By state law, persons doing outdoor burning from Oct. 15 through May 15 are required to obtain a free burn permit from the Forestry Division.
Part of the purpose for the permit system is to give safety information and weather alerts to those doing outdoor burning, and to limit or restrict burning if the fire danger becomes too high. This is part of fire prevention efforts as the state attempts to reduce fires and the costs associated with wildfire.
On Thursday, there were nine new fires responded to by the Division of Forestry, located in Anderson, Knox, Sevier, Campbell, Morgan, Scott, Sevier and Union counties. These fires burned a total of 632 acres. Seven were arson, one was debris and one was caused by children.
On Friday there were two fires in Scott County that forestry crews responded to and a large fire in Anderson County.
Crews are responding to these new fires, as well as returning to several fires from earlier in the week. One of those fires was in Hawkins County, where the Short Mount forest fire — which started Nov. 15 — had scorched about 2,200 acres west of Rogersville.
A primary hazard associated with large and numerous wildfires is limited visibility due to smoke, as well as health concerns, and issues may be seen from this near the fires occurring across East Tennessee, especially near large population centers and off vital, busy roadways during this holiday weekend.
A phenomenon known as temperature inversion occurs when smoke from prescribed burns, wildfire or wood burning stoves hangs low to the ground at night and in the early morning.
So far this year in Tennessee, approximately 960 fires have burned an estimated 11,500 acres. For a current update of fire statistics in the state, safe debris burning tips, FIREWISE information and a link to the online burn permit system, go to www.burnsafetn.org.
Woods arson is a Class C felony punishable by three 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 toll-free at 1-800-762-3017. Calls are kept confidential.