OAK RIDGE (WATE) – A crew with the Oak Ridge Fire Department helped rescue 12 people during the wildfires in Sevier County Monday night.
A five person crew was sent to the Pigeon Forge Emergency Operations Center Monday afternoon, who where then sent to give support in the Wears Valley area. Over the next 12 hours, they, along with five Maryville firefighters, worked several fire situations, mostly near Dollywood.
More: The latest on the fires
Around 11 p.m., the crew was sent to Mitchell Road to help a man trapped in a cabin behind Dollywood with fire all around him. The firefighters couldn’t get to him because of downed trees and power poles. They began cutting trees and encountered downed power lines and transformers. Once utility crews cut power to the area, they were able to go in to rescue the man.
Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley had been given the trapped man’s cell phone number, but a women answered. She said she was with about 11 other people in their cars with fire all around and thought they were going to die. Kerley said he was on the way to rescue them.
Firefighters spotted three cars in the middle of the road with fire rapidly approaching on both sides. Firefighters reassured them and helped them leave their cars. All 12 people and four dogs were able to get to a trolley and head to the Pigeon Forge shelter.
“In my 39 years of service, this has been the worst disaster I have seen in East Tennessee,” Chief Kerley said. “Every direction we looked, there were fires burning on the mountainside. We saw cabins explode into fire on the ridge tops and there was nothing we could do. It was a totally helpless feeling.”
Oak Ridge has also provided two battalion chiefs to work at the incident command center in Gatlinburg.