UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Fall fire season in Tennessee started on Oct. 15 and the United States Forest Service has started prescribed burns in the Cherokee National Forest to help reduce fire hazards, improve habitat and help manage desirable vegetation.

Wildland firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service started a prescribed burn on Tuesday in Unicoi County, Southwest of the Nolichucky River, along Rich Mountain Road.

James Heaton, public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said approximately 710 acres of land were burned with the intention of decreasing hazardous fuels and increasing habitat in that area.

That specific prescribed burn lasted for two days until Wednesday evening. A helicopter was also used to ignite the fires.

“Each area has specific objectives,” Heaton said. “And so that the rate at which they burn, the period at which they burn is determined by that area.”

Before conducting prescribed burns, the U.S. Forest Service makes sure weather conditions such as wind speeds and wind direction are safe.

“They look at current and expected weather conditions and set these fires when conditions are right to meet the objectives specific to that burn unit,” Heaton said.

According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, fire fall season starts on Oct. 15 when leaves start to fall and usually goes through Dec. 15 “due to shorter, cooler wetter days.”

“We do have periods throughout the fall every year where conditions begin to get dry and fire activity increases,” Heaton said. “And so that is completely determined on what the current weather patterns and weather conditions are.”

Burn permits are also required in Tennessee from Oct. 15 through May 15.

Before obtaining a burn permit, check your city or county to make sure there are no burning restrictions in your locality first.

To apply for a permit in Tennessee and to find information on what can be burned, you can check the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s website.

The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct more prescribed burns in the Unaka and Watauga Ranger Districts continuing through the winter months, as conditions are met.