BY KEN LITTLE
Area fire departments have been kept busy in recent weeks responding to brush and woods fires, some of which were caused by careless burning or discarded cigarettes.
Caution and common-sense practices are advised when burning outside, fire officials said.
The spring fire season, prompted by warming weather, begins about Feb. 15 and ends near May 15th, when the forest has "greened up," according to the state Department of Agriculture's Division of Forestry.
A fire that started about midnight Monday burned between 30 and 35 acres of woodland in the 6800 block of Greystone Road, Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department member Mike Jolicoeur said.
Sunnyside firefighters assisted the Camp Creek Volunteer Fire Department in extinguishing the blaze, which took about six hours to contain.
The U.S. Forest Service also assisted, bringing in a bulldozer and cutting a fire line, Jolicoeur said.
High winds helped the fire to spread, he said. The cause was not immediately known.
The Greene County chapter of the American Red Cross was also at the fire scene.
MOSHEIM MOBILE HOME FIRE
A grass fire about 6:15 p.m. Sunday at 658 Broom Factory Road expanded to include a mobile home, said James Foshie, assistant chief of the Town of Mosheim Volunteer Fire Department.
"When fire units arrived on scene, they discovered a mobile home was on fire as well as the surrounding grassy area. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire using about 1,000 gallons of water," Foshie said in an email.
Mobile home occupant Daniel Brown, who rents the home, told firefighters the fire had possibly been started by a discarded cigarette near the structure, Foshie said.
The fire was confined to a corner of the home and damage was minimal, he said.
Greeneville Light and Power System disconnected power to the mobile home as a precautionary measure. Residents were displaced for the evening.
No injuries were reported. The Greene County Sheriff's Department also responded to the scene.
MOSHEIM GRASS FIRE
Heavy winds contributed to a fire reported at 1:54 a.m. Monday in the 1800 block of Main Street that burned about eight acres of grass and woodland, Foshie said.
"Once on scene, firefighters discovered approximately eight acres of grass and woods was on fire," Foshie said. "Access to the fire was hindered due to location and the presence of barbed wire fences."
Firefighters initially had to get to the fire site through pasture fields, Foshie said.
"Due to the large area burning and heavy winds pushing the fire, the Mosheim Volunteer Department was requested to assist in firefighting efforts," he said.
Firefighters removed a section of the barbed wired fence to gain access into the area, Foshie said.
"Firefighters using hoselines, fire rakes and portable water cans were able to confine and extinguish the fire," he said. "Heavy winds at the time of the fire made fighting the fire difficult."
It took about two-and-a-half hours to completely extinguish the fire, Foshie said.
Wesley Holt, chief of the Greene County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, reminded county residents that a burning permit must be obtained from the state Division of Forestry before burning debris.
The permits are free.
"Spring is coming on and everybody wants to get an early start on the burning," Holt said. "They want to get the cleanup started from the winter."
People need to remember that fires can spread quickly this time of year, he said.
"The vegetation is dry. There's no green vegetation in it and there's no moisture in the vegetation," Holt said. "With the wind blowing, it dries it out and fires have a tendency to spread."
Untended backyard fires or a carelessly discarded cigarette butt can cause a fire that quickly burns out of control, Holt said.
"If you do have a fire that gets out of control and it burns other peoples' property, you're liable for their property," he said.
When burning outside, "use good common sense," Holt said.
Always have a hose or other water source available nearby, he said.
A burning permit is required to conduct an open-air fire within 500 feet of any forest, grassland or woodlands.
Permits aren't required for burning in containers, such as a metal barrel with a mesh screen cover. Anyone needing to burn within an incorporated city should contact city authorities about local burning ordinances.
Many towns and cities have separate burning regulations that supersede the state Division of Forestry's burning permit program.
Permits will not be issued on days and in locations if it is considered unsafe to conduct a debris burn, according to the Division of Forestry.
GETTING A PERMIT
For information about obtaining a burning permit in Greene County, call (423) 638-7841. The Division of Forestry website has information about how to get a burning permit online, at http://burnsafetn.org/burn_permit.html
To find out what materials may not be burned in Tennessee, call 1-888-891-TDEC toll-free or get information on the state Department of Environment and Conservation's Open Burning Guidelines at http://www.tdec.net/apc
Materials that can't be burned in the state include household trash, tires and other rubber products, vinyl siding and vinyl shingles, plastics and other synthetic materials, and asphalt shingles and other asphalt roofing materials, and demolition debris.
To report illegal burning, call 1-888-891-TDEC.
The state Division of Forestry offers the following burning safety tips:
* 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 the local fire department and neighbors to let them know 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.