With hot and dry weather leading into the fall fire season, Tennessee's state forester is requiring a burn permit for all open-air outdoor fires beginning Sept. 23.

Typically, burn permits are required statewide Oct. 15-May 15, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry. While the state has not seen an increase in the number of wildfires, and indices right now don't suggest a high fire danger, the division is putting burn permits in place early as a precaution. If current weather conditions continue as leaf fall begins, fire danger may escalate.

"This precautionary measure will be beneficial as we continue to monitor fire risk," State Forester David Arnold said in the release. "The burn permit system focuses attention on safety, and it's important for citizens to know when, where, and how to safely burn debris. Caution and conservative judgment should always be used when working with fire."

Obtaining a burn permit is free, fast, and simple. If the permitee is burning

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a leaf or brush pile that is smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet in size, the online system provides a quick and efficient way to apply. For a larger burn, call the local Division of Forestry burn permit phone number between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The online system and phone numbers can be found at www.BurnSafeTN.org.

More than 300,000 permits are issued each year, and they are only issued when conditions are conducive to safe burning. In addition, both the city of Lebanon and the city of Mt. Juliet require local permits to conduct burns within their respective city limits.

For a list of materials that may not be burned, check the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's open burning guidelines at www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/apc-air-pollution-control-home/apc/open-burning.html.

Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by 3 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 at 1-800-762-3017. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, and you may remain anonymous when providing information. Cash awards are offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction. To report illegal burning, please call 1-888-891-TDEC.

Visit www.BurnSafeTN.org for additional tips to burn safely and to protect your community.

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