Scott County issues burn ban, allows certain recreational fires

Holly Viers • Oct 4, 2019 at 9:07 AM

GATE CITY — As dry weather continues, Scott County leaders have taken action to prevent wildfires.

The Scott County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to issue a countywide ban on open-air burning at its meeting on Wednesday. The ban will be in effect until at least Nov. 6 at 8:30 a.m., but it may be extended if dry conditions do not improve.

“(That) is our next meeting date, and we could re-look at that at that time and see how our rain situation is progressing. … If needed, we could extend or let it extinguish itself at that time,” said County Administrator Freda Starnes.

What about campfires?

Per a request from Natural Tunnel State Park, campfires are allowed during the burn ban, but only in designated campgrounds and under full-time supervision of a campground official.

“Campfires in these areas must be maintained within permanently designated campfire rings or circles and be under the continuous supervision of the responsible party until the fire is completely extinguished,” the resolution states. “This does not include unsupervised campsites.”

What about recreational fires?

Outside of permanently designated campgrounds, a recreational fire is allowed if the fire is “completely contained within a ring of rocks, cinderblocks, metal ring or similar device and is covered by a quarter-inch or smaller metal screen. A fire built in a pit with a similar metal screen may also be approved,” the resolution states.

“That means if you’re having a weenie roast in October in your backyard, you’re going to have to have a quarter-inch screen over the fire, even though it’s contained,” said Bill Dingus, assistant county administrator.

In all cases, the fire must be attended at all times, and a 20-foot area around the fire should be cleared of all flammable material. Ready access to water, a rake and shovel is also required.

Exercising caution

Supervisor Danny Mann said burn bans or similar steps have been taken recently in surrounding localities, such as Washington, Russell and Dickenson counties.

“What scares me is we know what happened in 2016, what happened in the Gatlinburg area,” Mann said, “which I think it’s drier now than it was then.”