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Dry Conditions Force Burn Bans Across State

PHOTO: Dry conditions persist across the state and weary firefighters are urging residents to be mindful of the tinderbox conditions.
PHOTO: Dry conditions persist across the state and weary firefighters are urging residents to be mindful of the tinderbox conditions.
July 4, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As Tennesseans prepare to celebrate the Fourth, they are being reminded that many counties and cities across the state are under a burn ban.

Tom Womack, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, says that dry conditions have made Tennessee a tinderbox, but that some people are confused as to what can, and cannot, take place during the ban.

"That applies to open-air burning: things such as debris burning, construction burning, campfires, even cooking fires if you're using charcoal or something where embers could spark a fire; those are prohibited as well."

More than two dozen counties are currently under the ban. While the state ban does not include fireworks, Womack says rules vary and a lot of cities are enacting their own fireworks bans, so it's important to find out the rules for where you live and plan ahead. More information is at BurnSafeTN.org.

Womack says that fires are already popping up in communities across the state.

"We're seeing primarily a large number of grass fires, accidental fires, carelessness fires, people flicking cigarettes, you know, field equipment, farm equipment going through a grassy area can start a fire, so any of that activity can spark a wildfire or grass fire."

Womack says that with the Fourth of July holiday, the temptation to shoot fireworks is great, and for many families, it's a tradition.

"We are encouraging, and the state fire marshal's office is encouraging, the public not to shoot fireworks, but rather to attend public displays as an alternative."

A violation of the state burn ban is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor and can carry a fine of $2,500 and/or up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.

That website is www.burnsafetn.org.

Bo Bradshaw, Public News Service - TN