Burn permits suspended following rash of fires

By Jim Balloch knoxnews.com
A rash of wildfires, combined with deteriorating conditions, is prompting the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Forestry Division to suspend burn permits for 24 East Tennessee counties.

Meanwhile in Hawkins County, fire crews on Wednesday remained at the site of a fire that has burned 2,200 acres on Short Mountain. The firefighters are expected to stay in place through the weekend.

Most of the fire is out, but flames were still on the fringes and at hot spots in the interior, "and a lot of smoke is still being generated," said Forestry Division spokesman Nathan Waters.

Crews in Anderson County also are battling a wildfire that has burned some 300 acres on Walden's Ridge, north of Oak Ridge, he said.

Firefighters expected rising humidity to control the flames at the Hawkins and Anderson county sites overnight, Waters said. Cooler temperatures forecast for later this week should help as well, he added.

Tuesday fires in Anderson, Carter, Claiborne and Monroe counties burned a combined 70 acres. The Claiborne County incident was an escaped debris fire, and the others were suspected arson, Waters said.

Woods arson is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal's Arson Hotline toll free at 800-762-3017. All calls are kept confidential.

On Wednesday, authorities decided to suspend issuance of all burn permits in the following counties:

Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union and Washington.

No permits will be available today because it is a holiday.

Thereafter, decisions regarding burn permits will be made day to day, county by county basis, Waters said.