Carter County

Brush fires keep fire crews busy throughout the region

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - It was a busy day for firefighters in our region on Friday, as brush fires burned through areas of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

We found out that Tennessee reached the highest level of fire danger, indicating fires started and spread quickly.

The Forestry Division told us no one should've been burning outside but as one Carter County man found out, people did it anyway.

Resident Bobby Roberts left his home for about an hour and when he got back he told us he saw smoke and flames.

"I came home and saw my property was burning," said Roberts.

He told us he has about seven or eight acres of land.

"If it had went on back a little further and had gotten in the big woods we'd had a whole bunch of mess," he said.

Fire crews were able to contain the fire on Roberts' land but the Tennessee Division of Forestry told us they were hoping to avoid that situation all together.    

Forestry technician James Heaton covers Carter and Johnson counties. He said they didn't issue any burn permits on Friday, something you need if you plan to burn outdoors before May 15th.

"Permits help us control the number of fires we have," said Heaton. "We don't want everyone burning on a high fire danger day, if we can keep them from it."

If you burn without a permit, it could cost you up to $50 and 30 days in jail. Heaton told us, despite those penalties, they had two fire calls in five minutes.

"One in Johnson County and one in Carter County and it sounds like we're going to be leaving this fire and going straight to another fire," he said from Roberts' property.

We found out the nice weather helped the fires spread fast.

"Everything's drying out now," said Heaton. "We usually get winds in March and April, lower humidity, and everyone's also trying to clean up their winter debris in their lawn."

Heaton told us that if you plan to do that, you need to make sure you have a water hose and fire rake nearby in case the fire gets out of hand.

It's something property owner Bobby Roberts hopes others will remember.

"If they aren't careful, they'll get what we got here," he said. "Woods burning, property getting hurt and everything else like this, it could be a whole lot worse."

If you live in Virginia, these rules will be different for you.

Right now in the Commonwealth there is a daytime burning ban in place until April 30th, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry

You're only allowed to burn between 4:00 p.m. and midnight and must attend to your fire at all times.

Violators of this ban could face fines up to $500.

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