Three local fire departments save 100 homes from Sevier Co. wildfires

Courtesy of Elizabethton Fire Department
Courtesy of Elizabethton Fire Department

ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL) – Members of the Elizabethton Fire Department are back in the Tri-Cities after battling wildfires in Sevier County.

Elizabethton Fire Chief Deputy Rusty Barnett said five firefighters, including himself, traveled to Gatlinburg on Monday night and spent nearly 24 hours fighting brush and home fires.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” chief deputy Barnett said about the destruction in East Tennessee. “It was fire on both sides of the highway. You probably had 15 feet visibility from smoke; cars sitting all along the highway from where people abandoned them.”
Barnett said his team, along with members from the Rogersville Fire Department and the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department spent most of their time in the Smoky Mountains. Barnett said they responded to one call for a structure fire and then started trying to save surrounding homes and property.
“One [house] was burning right up to the porch. One was getting up next to the back of another and we just started hitting them and luckily we saved those five.” Barnett said they lost several homes but saved about 100 despite dealing with water shortages. “We started about halfway down the mountain and then we ended up having to go all the way to the bottom of the mountain to get water.” At one point, Barnett said a Hampton volunteer firefighter had to get water from a nearby creek so crews could continue fighting the flames.
Elizabethton firefighters returned home on Wednesday afternoon but Barnett said their thoughts are still with the Gatlinburg and Sevier County communities. “We think about them, especially the ones that are missing and the ones that have perished.”
On Thursday, officials said more than 17,000 acres have burned in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevier County.
Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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