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Dry weather prompts state ban on brush burning
Mar 30, 2007 12:00 am
The Tennessee Division of Forestry issued a statewide ban Tuesday morning on all types of burning until further notice, citing extremely dry and windy weather conditions.
The ban applies to campfires, barrel burning, brush burning and construction burning. Anyone caught burning, even if they have a burn permit, may be fined by the Division of Forestry.
Wilson County Emergency Management Agency firefighters said the ban came not a moment too soon. A brush fire on Tuesday afternoon at 2255 Poplar Hill Road spread into some nearby woods and burned for four hours.
It was the 13th out-of-control brush fire WEMA responded to since Saturday, public information officer Jennifer Harman said.
Firefighters gained control of the fire by clearing trees and brush in the woods to set a series of small controlled fires and create a border, called a fire line.
"When the fire comes up [to the fire line], it has nowhere to go," Harman said.
WEMA become aware of the blaze by a 911 call around 12:47 p.m., according to Harman.
"It just kind of took off from the brush pile," Harman said, adding that three similar fires were reported throughout the county that day, though none were as severe as the Poplar Hill Road fire.
"This entire weekend has been this way – multiple calls. It has not been uncommon," Harman said.
Year-round, brush fires that spread out of control make up about 30 percent of WEMA's overall workload, Harman said.
"Just a little spark can set a huge fire," she said, adding that partnerships with surrounding fire agencies enables WEMA to fulfill its many duties – which include ambulance service for all of Wilson County and fire service for Mt. Juliet and Wilson County.
"It is really difficult," Harman said. "We have to rely heavily on other agencies, and that's where mutual aid comes in."
Any county bordering Wilson County has a mutual aid agreement, lending and receiving firefighting support when needed.
WEMA, Watertown Fire Department, Lebanon Fire Department and the state Division of Forestry responded to the Poplar Hill Road fire. Overall, 11 units and 17 personnel worked the scene, with five crews rotating out every 15 minutes, Harman said.
They stayed four hours before extinguishing all flames and clearing the scene, leaving smoldering ashes to the watchful eyes of neighbors.
Don Johnston, a nearby neighbor, said he had seen smoke in the area since 9 a.m.
"I didn't know where it was coming from," he said.
Johnston said he gladly loaned his four-wheeler to firefighters when they asked to use it to navigate the wooded area.
"They said they had a bad situation they couldn't put out," Johnston said.
It is not yet known who set the fire and whether they were aware of the ban. Harman said the Division of Forestry would be responsible for deciding whether it would be appropriate to press charges or levy a fine.
Staff writer Hayli Morrison may be contacted by calling 444-3952, ext. 45, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.