by Pettus Read
I just recently completed a stone fire ring on my place that has with it history that dates back to the days before the Civil War. I used stones cut with chisel by farm labor in 1842 to construct a fireplace in the house that once stood where my house now stands today. When we built our house back in 1998, I had saved the chimney stone from my grandfather's old farmhouse we had to dismantle in a pile to be used later for constructing something that I had hoped we could share with others. It only took me twelve years to finally get around to making a simple fire ring that worked beautifully to host a group of high school young people from my church for a fall weiner roast on our farm.
It was pretty important to have that fire ring too, because with the current lack of rain, it was really dry and the stones helped contain the fire, preventing a visit from our local fire department. I like excitement at my get-togethers, but not if it involves the law or firemen with large red trucks. I appreciate those fellows, but they do put somewhat of a damper on your festivities if they were not a planned part of the event.
October is known to be one of the driest months of the year and so far it is following the normal routine. Due to this fact, permits for open, outdoor burning of leaves and wood debris are required during the official fire season, Oct. 15 through May 15. I keep their permit phone number handy during this time of the year, because there is a fine or even jail time if you burn without a permit during the fire season. I don't like jail and I sure don't like paying fines, which I see as a total waste of my money. Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50. When you think conditions have improved enough for you to burn, you should inquire about burning permits by calling your local Division of Forestry office listed in the phone directory under state government between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. A directory of state Forestry Divisi on offices by county and fire safety tips also can be found on the Web at www.burnsafetn.org.
I've had a lot of folks tell me they don't ever get a burn permit, but one time let your brush pile get out of control and help be called, and you will wish you did. Things requiring a burning permit include, but are not limited to, unconfined outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste, and burning to clear land. Burning permits are required in most areas unless superseded by local ordinance, so citizens are encouraged to also check for any restrictions by municipalities. The permit system helps the Forestry Division communicate to the public when and where it is safe to burn. I know, there are those of you who have been burning brush piles on your farm all your life and feel you do not need some stranger in a white truck with a state seal on the side telling you how to do it. However, their job is to protect our forests, the public and you from wildfire and fire dangers. Their knowledge and knowing the unknowns of weather conditions and the burning possibilities of undergrowth could save all of us a lot of grief.
The Forestry Division reports that due to extra dry weather conditions in West Tennessee, the permits were required earlier this year than normal in the counties west of the Tennessee River. So far this year 275 fires have burned an estimated 1,235 acres in West Tennessee. Escaped debris burns are the leading cause of wildfire and 53 percent of those fires.
Let's not be the cause for a Forestry Division employee to spend his weekend fighting a fire on our place. Check before you burn and use some "common sense". Maybe it is time for you to build that fire ring you have been putting off for all these years. Can't think of a better excuse.