The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau suspend seasonal burning in early October when wildfires began popping up. Public Relations Coordinator Amber Boles says it's the bureau's responsibility to protect our health.

"When you have a drought and people are burning, of course it becomes extremely unsafe," says Boles. "Then you start having wildfires because of the unsafe conditions. Those wildfires contribute to poor air quality."

During the ban you should report any illegal burning. An investigator from the bureau will check it out.

"If he determines that it is a violation of whatever rules and regulations apply to that fire, then he can issue what's called a Notice of Violation," states Boles.

About 25 notices have been issued in the month since the ban started. If you're cited you'll have time to respond to the notice and set up a meeting with the bureau's director. If you live in a city in Hamilton County and you break the rules you could pay up to $25,000 in civil penalties per occurrence, per day.

The punishment in unincorporated areas is different.

"You can be put in jail for up to 30 days and/or assessed a $50 fine," says Boles.

These rural cases are handled by the Tennessee Division of Forestry .

If you're ever unsure about whether or not burning is allowed, call the Air Pollution Control Bureau or visit its web site here. It could save you a lot of time, trouble, and money.

"It is considered an illegal burn if that day is a No Burning day, whether you have a permit or not," adds Boles. She adds that "burning of any kind is strongly discouraged at this time due to the exceptionally dry conditions".