How to protect your home from brush fires

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Pigeon Forge (WVLT) - The brush fire in Pigeon Forge may not have burned so close to the houses if they'd made them more "firewise."

Pigeon Forge firefighters say the dead leaves and logs on their property helped fuel the flames.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy spoke with the Division of Forestry on how to make homes safer from brush fires.

Yesterday's brush fire shows wildfire season's still blazing. It starts October 15th and burns through May 15th. So we still have about seven weeks left. Firefighters say get the kindling out of your yard.

Tis *still* the season for wildfires.

"We were prepared for the worst, as you go into the summer you just never know," said Nathan Waters from the Division of Forestry.

East Tennessee's has seven weeks left to burn for this year's fire season.

"If we get a dry period, and the conditions are right, and it happens somewhere there's fuel to burn and there's a lot of wind, that's a bad mix," Waters said.

The Division of Forestry says that mix happened in Thursday's Sevier County Brush fire. Flames forced 15 families from their homes.

"It can happen anywhere," Captain Chris Dyer from the Knoxville Fire Department said.

That means even Knox County. Firefighters doused a brush fire along Millertown Pike just last week.

"Say we had 10 forest fires going on at the same time and all the structural engines were out. There wouldn't be enough engines to go to every home. So it's up the landowner," Waters said.

Firefighters say you need to make your home "firewise." That means turn your yard into defensible space at least 30 feet. Prune your shrubs, cut tree branches.
Move dead plants further away, including leaves and stacked firewood. Firefighter says all that builds an inferno highway.

"It's like a tractor trailer going up the interstate. If there's big chunks within the interstate he's not going to make it," Waters said.

The Knoxville Fire Department says most brush fires it fights, light up because of common sense mistakes.

"They flip their cigarettes out the window. They don't think of them on fire, but it smolders and smolders, and it eventually gets the brush on fire," Dyer said.

Open burns are illegal in Knoxville's city limits. Anywhere else, you must get a free burn permit through May 15th.

"In years past we've had guys out on runs for weeks at a time, and they get worn out. We haven't done that," Waters said.

That's the way firefighters want this fire season to burn out.

To get a burn permit, just call your local Division of Forestry Office. Also, firefighters warn keep water and fire extinguishers handy.

You can make many more firewise changes to your home. Those include, roof construction, windows, and landscaping.

The drought's still the number one factor with these fires, but forestry officials say this year's scattered showers have prevented the number we saw last year.


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