Rutherford County Fire & Rescue Warns that Open Burning Can Lead to Brush Fires and Other Consequences

Dec 10, 2021 at 10:59 am by WGNS

Above: Past brush fires throughout Rutherford County, TN

Rutherford County, TN— Rutherford County Fire Rescue (RCFR) warns that open burning, if not done properly, can lead to large brush fires and additional consequences.

The department responded to a total of three separate brush fires in the Kittrell area Thursday, according to Fire Marshal Joshua Sanders. “This resulted in one citation, one verbal warning, and one written warning,” he said.

RCFR Captain Adam Rose, whose teams responded to the fires along with Kittrell and Lascassas volunteer departments, stated that Thursday’s high winds were definitely a contributing factor to how fast the fires were moving. “Due the location of the fires, RCFR’s brush trucks had to be deployed to get water to the fires, and crews had to use special wildland firefighting hand tools and techniques as well.”

Fortunately, crews were able to keep any structures from receiving damage.

“Open burning in windy conditions like we experienced Thursday can quickly lead to fires getting out of hand,” advised Sanders. “We strongly encourage not burning when winds are high, but also when it’s overcast because that tends to keep the smoke close to the ground.”

Additionally, Sanders mentioned that it is important to obtain a proper permit prior to any sort of open burning.

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Permits for Open Burning

Open burning is defined as “the burning of a bonfire, vegetation debris fire or other fire in an outdoor location where fuel burned is not contained in an incinerator, outdoor fireplace, barbecue grill or barbecue pit.”

Between October 15 and May 15 each year, state law requires citizens to obtain a permit from the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry before conducting any open burning.

“Illegal burns will be extinguished and persons conducting illegal burns or burning without a permit are also subject to receiving a citation from the Fire Marshal’s Office,” said Sanders. 

Permits are free of charge. Persons can apply online for a permit by visiting or by calling toll-free 1-877-350-2876.

RCFR encourages citizens to “Learn before you burn.”

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In the State of Tennessee and Rutherford County, there are items that are illegal to burn at any time (not just during permitting season):

• Tires and any rubber products
• Vinyl siding and shingles
• Asphalt shingles and other asphalt roofing materials and demolition debris
• Building material, construction debris and mobile homes
• Plywood, oriented strand board and pressure treated wood, including railroad ties
• Asbestos-containing materials
• Metals, Aerosol cans, and food cans
• Copper wire or electrical wires
• Any Plastics and other synthetic materials
• Paper products, cardboard, and newspaper
• Any Household garbage/trash

It is also illegal to burn any materials that are transported from one site to another for the purpose of burning. Transporting any materials natural or man-made, dumping, and burning on another site or receiving materials to burn is subject to steep fines.

State law allows for a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day for each day of violation of the Air Quality Act regardless of the size of the burn.

What can be burned?

Leaves, branches, trees, stumps and grass clippings as long as they are burned on site of their native location.

Other regulations:

• At least 1 person shall be constantly present at the burn site the entire length of the burn, and shall have available an extinguishment source (i.e. garden hose, fire extinguisher, heavy equipment if larger fire)

• Permits are good for 24 hours. (You MUST obtain a new one if it takes longer than 24 hours to burn your pile).

• If burning occurs within 100 feet of an occupied building it may occur ONLY if an adult occupant of that structure gives written authorization for the burn to occur and has not rescinded authorization in writing.

• Citizens living within the limits of a city or town are encouraged to check with their government for any local burning restrictions that might apply.

Recycling and composting are alternatives to open burning recommended by the Department of Environment and Conservation. Household garbage that cannot be recycled should be disposed in a permitted landfill.

County convenience centers and private garbage haulers are options for property owners to appropriately dispose of household trash. For a list of the County’s Recycling and Convenience Center sites, rules, and regulations, visit:

Persons seeking additional information about open burning should visit or contact RCFR’s Fire Marshal’s Office at 615-907-3600.


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