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The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              CONTACT: D. Christopher Garrett
March 6, 2013                                                                                    or Claire Marsalis  

State Fire Marshal urges safety in the wake of recent fire deaths
Change your clocks and smoke alarm batteries this weekend


NASHVILLE, TN – With the loss of 11 lives to residential structure fires since Feb. 28, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is encouraging all Tennesseans to change their smoke alarm batteries when they change their clocks Saturday night for daylight saving time.

“Alarms, even those that are hard-wired, should have their batteries replaced regularly and should be tested monthly to ensure they’re providing the proper protection,” State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak says.  

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is currently investigating the nine home fire deaths that have occurred across Tennessee since Saturday. Several of these fires occurred at night or early morning while the victims were sleeping. The smoke and toxic gases generated by a fire can cause people to sleep more deeply, narrowing the chances of surviving a fire. A working smoke alarm can double the chances of survival by increasing the amount of time a person has to escape a fire in their home.

In the United States, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no working smoke alarms. It is critical to install smoke alarms and replace batteries regularly. Twice a year is recommended. This reduces the chance of alarms chirping to indicate low batteries. All too often, a battery is removed and not replaced, putting a home’s occupants at risk. There’s no way to predict when a fire will occur; so, even one night without an operational smoke alarm can be dangerous.

Here are some other helpful hints on the importance of smoke alarms:

    • Smoke alarms should be installed in every room where an occupant sleeps, outside every sleeping area and on each level of the home, including the basement. Make sure everyone can hear the alarm and knows what it sounds like.
    • For the best protection, equip your home with a combination of ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor alarms.
    • Dust or vacuum your smoke alarms whenever the battery is changed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the Internet.
    • Devise a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room, and be sure to teach it to all who live in the home, including children.
    • When a smoke alarm sounds, get out of the home immediately and go to your pre-planned meeting place.
    • Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.            
    • Test alarms once a month using the test button. Replace the entire alarm if it's more than 10 years old or doesn't work properly when tested.       
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is on a mission to prevent fire deaths in Tennessee. Part of this mission includes a statewide smoke alarm program aimed at equipping high-risk homes across the state with 10-year battery smoke alarms. You can find out more about this important program at http://tn.gov/fire/getalarmed.shtml.            

For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the State Fire Marshal’s Office home fire safety checklist (http://tn.gov/fire/fsk/documents/checklist.pdf).

The State Fire Marshal’s Office (www.tn.gov/commerce/sfm/) is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance (www.tn.gov/commerce/), which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/, @TNCommerceInsur (Twitter), http://on.fb.me/uFQwUZ (Facebook), http://bit.ly/ry1GyX (YouTube).

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Tennessee Department of Forestry

Burning Permits Outside City Limits

The following tips should be followed when it is safe to conduct a debris burn:

  • 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 your local fire department and neighbors to let them know your 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.

Burning permits focus attention on the safe use of fire. From October 15 through May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland must by law secure a burning permit from the Division of Forestry. Permits are not 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 any local burning ordinances. Many towns and cities have their own burning regulations that supersede the Division of Forestry’s burning permit program.

Permits are free of charge and may be obtained by calling the phone number for the county in which the burning will be done or by filling out the online form. Burning permits are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except on holidays. Permits may be obtained in advance for weekends and holidays.

For information on what materials may NOT be burned in Tennessee, please visit Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Open Burning Guidelines by clicking here. To report illegal burning, please call toll-free 1-888-891-TDEC