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July 24, 2024

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Open Burning in Rutherford County Requires Permit: October 15-May 15

Rutherford County Fire Rescue (RCFR) reminds the community that beginning October 15, a permit from the State will be required 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 RCFR Fire Marshal Joshua 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.”

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.

About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 4-year-old Ezra and baby Norah.