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Burning of Flood Generated Natural Debris

Recent flooding events have resulted in large amounts of downed woody debris that has greatly impacted farm and woodland owners, especially in west Tennessee. Burning of that debris can be an efficient way for affected owners to promptly remove the material and assist them with recovery efforts. The following resources are intended to provide owners with information on safe debris burning, permitting process, and contacts for receiving more information and/or assistance.

Obtaining a Burn Permit

From October 15 through May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland must by law secure a burning permit from the Division of Forestry.

  • Permits are free of charge and may be obtained by calling the Division of Forestry phone number for the county where the burning will be done.
  • Burning permits are available online if the leaf or brush pile is no more than 8 ft. x 8 ft.
  • For information on what materials may NOT be burned in Tennessee, please visit Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Open Burning Guidelines.
  • If you are burning within a city's limits, contact local authorities for information on local burning ordinances. Many towns and cities have their own burning regulations that supersede the Division of Forestry’s burning permit program.

The following tips should be followed when it is safe to conduct a debris burn:

  • Check with local authorities to make sure there are no local restrictions on burning currently in place, especially in cities and towns that have their own burning permit system.
  • Notify your local fire department and neighbors to let them know your plans to burn
  • Do not burn on windy days
  • Stay abreast of changing weather conditions
  • Establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil at least five feet wide around burn piles
  • Keep fire containment equipment on hand during the fire (e.g. rake, shovel, water)
  • Stay with the fire until it is completely out.

Special Considerations

  • Safety of government officials, volunteer workers, and citizens is the highest priority to consider while conducting debris burning operations. 

  • Permits are not required if burning occurs greater than 500 feet from forestland or grassland. Safe debris burning tips should be applied. 

  • Division of Forestry personnel are available for on-site consultation on how to conduct safe debris burning operations. 

  • Assistance in cleanup can be requested through your local area forester (online directory). 

  • Debris must be transported to a public road right-of-way for transport to an approved burn site location. 

  • Burning of materials other than vegetative debris generated on site is not allowed unless TDEC-APC has waived existing laws. 

  • Additional Emergency Flood Response information can be found on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s website.