State adds online burn permit system

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald

With East Tennessee foliage turning colors of red, orange and yellow, fall is almost in full swing and the official forest fire season starts Saturday. As a sort of defense, the Forestry Division of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is offering a new feature this season.

With certain stipulations, the state requires by law those burning outside brush obtain a Tennessee Department of Agriculture-issued permit from Saturday through May 15. New this year though, the permits can be obtained online at

Nathan Waters, assistant district forester, said the new system is a way to relieve pressure on the phone service issuing the permits. The state also developed the system to provide landowners access to the system through the weekend and after-work hours.

"In some counties we are giving thousands of permits out in a year and they all call at once. This gives them another option. It goes over laws and what they can and can't burn," Waters said.

The forest fire season begins with the end of National Fire Prevention Week, which is observed by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry and the Department of Commerce and Insurance's Division of Fire Prevention. The prevention week reminds homeowners of safety practices to prevent forest fires.

"Many areas of the state are very dry and the permit system helps us communicate to the public when and where it is safe to burn," state forester Steve Scott said.

Recreational fires, such as those in a chimenea or a campfire, do not need a permit, but burning unconfined outdoor brush and leaves, untreated wood waste and burning to clear land need a permit.

The permit, both those by phone and online, are free of charge. However, one restriction with online permits is the burning debris must be measuring 8 feet by 8 feet or smaller, and the permit is only for individual piles. All others can be obtained by calling the local Forestry office.

"If someone is burning something larger, we want to give people information on our own. In a 8-feet-by-8-feet fire, we know its a reasonable sized brush pile and someone can control it. If its going to be larger, they need to make sure they know how to control it," Waters said.

Through the online system, those wanting to burn review fire safety standards, such as what is not legal to burn in Tennessee.

To obtain a permit online, go to and click on the "Burning Permits" link on the right side of the page. The online application process will explain rules, state regulations and safety information on burning brush.

The online application will ask the property owner what they will be burning and where the property is located. Waters said that information saves the government money by helping them easily locate a fire that becomes out of control or one they need to make sure is under eyes that have seen the state's safety standards.

These Department of Agriculture burn permits are good for fires in county limits. Those burning within city limits need to contact their local fire departments about any other burning ordinances. Some cities and towns have different burning regulations than the Tennessee Department of Agriculture-issued permits. Also, The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry does not issue outdoor burning permits in Davidson, Knox, Madison, Shelby. These counties, which include the larger cities, have their own city regulations.

According to, burning permits are available Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., except on holidays. For Loudon County burning permits, call 986-8395. Other county phone numbers can be found in your local phone directory under state government or on the department's website by clicking on the "Burning Permits" link and then "Burning Permits By Phone."