Sullivan County

Some Tennessee counties not giving out burn permits

Some Tennessee counties not giving out burn permits

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Since January, hundreds of fires have burned thousands of acres across Tennessee. With the dry conditions Thursday afternoon mixed with high winds in the forecast for the evening, some Tennessee counties won't be able to get a fire permit.

Every morning at 8 a.m. the forestry department checks the conditions for the day, determining if the forest could be at risk for fires.

Forestry technician Steven Bingham tells us people start 95 percent of forest fires. "Somebody just had a small pile of brush and it just got away from them into some dry grass. From the grass it spread to the woods and started a large forest fire," said Bingham.

David Dalton lives in a wooded area and knows there's a reason to worry in these conditions. "When it's windy like today, it could cause a bad fire if it got out," said Dalton.

Bingham says they constantly monitor three conditions: wind speed, humidity and the temperature. They use a chart numbered one to five to gauge the danger, one being low risk for fire and five being extreme risk. "On a day like today, it's a five day," said Bingham.

He tells News 5 even though rain will be moving into the area, the ground is still extremely dry thanks to high temperatures and low humidity.

High winds make the problem worse. "It gives more oxygen to the fire. It pushes the fire into one direction. It's hard to control your fire if you have a lot of wind," said Bingham.

Bingham tells us there are a few exceptions to the rule. "State law says if you are more than 500 feet away from any woodland or fields, you can burn without a permit, but it's hard to be that far away," said Bingham.

We learned there were two smaller fires today in Tennessee, but officials tell us they have been extinguished. They say the low number of fires was due to the ban on burning.    

The counties in Tennessee that are not issuing permits today are Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.

If you'd like more information on burning permits, you can visit

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