SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - The gusty wind is one reason why the Tennessee Department of Forestry is warning about brush fires -- they are seeing the numbers start to rise and are asking everyone to take precautions.
Leaves are falling and it's making people want to clean up and burn all the debris in their yards. Some are sparking fires and problems in the process. "A lot of people are out trying to clean up their leaves right now. Fires are escaping from them and getting through the woods," says Forestry Technician Steve Bingham.
Bingham is the Tennessee Forestry Technician for Sullivan County; he tells us this year 45 percent of the fires they've worked were started by people burning debris. "It's dry on top but as these few leaves are coming down off of the trees and piling up on the forest floor, there is a lot out there to burn," adds Bingham.
So far this year the Virginia Department of Forestry in our area has worked 67 fires -- in East Tennessee the Department of Forestry has worked 143 fires, and Sullivan County alone has worked 172 brush fires. "We probably have had less fires than we have any other traditional year because it's been so wet during the spring and the summer," says Bingham.
Bingham says in Tennessee anyone who burns debris, old wood, or vegetation between October 15 and May 15 must get a burn permit. They are mostly issued the day of the burn.
Bingham tells us you can never get a permit more than three days ahead of time. "If it's a bad windy day where the fire current is just high, we do not issue permits on those days. Every day before 8:00 we make that decision," adds Bingham.
Virginia doesn't give out burn permits. Bingham says if you don't control your fire, even if you have a permit you're liable if the fire spreads to someone else's property. "You will be ticketed for not keeping the fire on your property. If they have any damage to their dwelling you are responsible," says Bingham.
Bingham says on any given day in Sullivan County they issue 100 to 600 burn permits.
He says if you do plan to burn there are a few things you should do: first, get a burn permit. Never leave the fire unattended, bring a water hose to where you are burning, and make a clean line around where you are burning to keep it contained.