Emergency calls released after Sevier County fires


SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Newly released emergency calls from November 28, 2016 show people worried as fire consumes the Gatlinburg and Sevier County areas.

Calls from Sevierville Police Department dispatchers on the night of the deadly wildfires in Sevier County show the chaos that night as dispatchers tried to keep up with a flood of calls and lack of communication between departments.

Dozens of people called to ask if they were being evacuated. Others called asking on the status of loved ones.

Dispatchers tried to help people as best they could, trying to relay calls to Gatlinburg Police Department. Many callers said they couldn’t reach police.

Dispatch: Sevierville Police Department.
Caller: Um yes, hi. I tried to Gatlinburg Police Department and obviously there is no answer. My father in law is at *** Ridge Road, Gatlinburg, Tennessee and he is trapped in his house with the fire and a tree fell across his driveway and knocked power lines out and it is sparking electricity everywhere.
Dispatch: Hold on, *** Ridge Road?
Caller: Yes, Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Yes, and he’s been fighting the fire with a water hose.
Dispatch: So there is a fire in his yard?
Caller: I’m guessing so, but he is not answering his phone at all and we cannot get a hold of him. Five minutes ago we talked to him and it’s been more than five minutes, it’s been like 20 minutes since we talked to him, but he is trapped inside his house and like he cannot even get out of the driveway and there is fire around them.
Dispatch: Ok, I’ll see if I can get ahold of Gatlinburg.
Caller: Ok. Thank you.

Dispatch: Police department. Hill speaking.
Caller: Yes, this is Mrs. Johnson. I’m over at Regal Square. I called the sheriff’s department before. Can you tell me if I’m in danger? I’m by King Hollow, I see the sky lit up with red and I don’t know if this is just the sky or it is fire.
Dispatch: And you are on Regal? Yes, over on Regal, I’m up off King Colon. The street over on the other side of me… when I look off my sun porch toward Pigeon Forge I can see red sky and I’m a nervous wreck.
Dispatch: Now just calm down and relax a little bit. Now, what’s your address?
Caller: *** Regal Court. The sky towards Gatlinburg I know they’re having a fire over there. I just need to know how close it is to me.
Dispatch: Ok, off Pittman Center.
Caller: I’m Pittman Center. I’m up the river. It’s just smoky and the sky is all red.
Dispatch: Ok, you need to call the sheriff’s department. Have you tried that?
Caller: I just can’t get through to them. It just keeps running busy and then it is buzzing off like it is not working. I’ve tried the whole thing.
Dispatch: Ok, I don’t know of anything in the Pittman Center area right now, okay.
Caller: Ok, I am going to start heading toward Sevierville.
Dispatch: It is up off the Spur in Gatlinburg and in Gatlinburg. I don’t know of anything in the Pittman Center right now, but here is what I want you to do. If you feel that uncomfortable, do you have any family members that can call to come stay with you?
Caller: Yes, but they’re far away and I don’t know what to do, to leave or what…
Dispatch: Where is your family?
Caller: They’re in the same area as I am.
Dispatch: Well, why don’t you call them and see if they would be willing to stay with you? That way you can get help if you need to do.
Caller: Well when I looked out towards Dollywood all the sky is red. What’s on fire there?
Dispatch: Ok, there is all sorts of forest fires going on.
Caller: Oh my God, I’m sorry to bother you.
Dispatch: That’s alright. Call you family and see if they would be willing to stay with you.

Dispatch: Dispatch.
Caller: Hi, yes ma’am, my name is Dewayne Hill and I have a daughter that lives on Ridge Top Way, the resort and I was wondering if somebody if somebody could check on her.
Dispatch: Well I’m not sure where Ridge Top Way is. Is it Pigeon Forge? Gatlinburg?
Caller: Yes, it is Pigeon Forge.
Dispatch: Ok, well then you would need Pigeon Forge Police Department. That is not our jurisdiction there. I know that they are kind of busy there, but I will give you the number.
Caller: I just called them and they patched me in to you.
Dispatch: What is her address?
Caller: Ok, it is **** Ridgetop Way in Pigeon Forge. It is at the resort.
Dispatch: Ok, that is actually the county. That is why they patched you over here. Hold on, let me get you the county.
[Phone rings]
Caller: Seriously, they have nobody to answer the [Explicit] phone.
[Phone rings]
Caller: Nobody knows [Explicit} down there.
[Phone rings]
Caller: Hello? I may have just gotten cut off.

Caller: Hello?
Dispatch: ….The department is and they just let them know each individual house is on fire, but I can’t tell you which…. or even which areas are being evacuated… right now half of the county burning and we can’t even get a hold of the police department. They don’t even have phones. Central 9-1-1 phones are blocked because they have so many calls that are going out. We get 9-1-1 calls only and we’re responding and sending an officer if someone is in them while they are burning… you got to look at the local tv stations. They are broadcasting and I think they are communicating with the agencies directly, because I think they are showing which agencys and which areas and that’s how we’re getting our information. Look on their website, WATE and WBIR tv and it will let you know which areas are evacuated and you can tell if you house is being evacuated if you are in a home here.
Caller: Ok, thank you so much.
Dispatch: Ok, good luck to your house, okay.

Dispatch: Sevierville Police Department.
Caller: Yes ma’am, my name is Keith and I’m in Louisiana right now. I have some friends parents who are stuck in a condo in Gatlinburg. I didn’t know if there is something you can do to help them?
Dispatch: Have you tried calling Gatlinburg police department?
Caller: Yes ma’am, but nobody is answering.
Dispatch: (Laughs) They’re probably on the other line. Tell me the address where they are.
Caller: They are at 290 Sherman Clabo Road in Gatlinburg.
Dispatch: Clay-bo in these parts?
Caller: In Louisiana, it is Cla-bo. I’m sorry.
Dispatch: Let’s see 290, now, there are lots of 290s so there is going to be a number after that… another number. Like, there is a million of those up there.
Caller: The only thing I know is Tree Top Condos. Yes, and there is a bazillion of those up in Roaring Forks. Is there another number behind the 29?
Dispatch: There would have to be.
Caller: Yeah, I know they are off of. Oh, I know where they are, but short of going through every single one of those condos looking for them. And they’re there right now. Are you sure they did not evacuate? We’ve been texting back and forth and apparently the fire is around them and they can’t get out. Let’s see what the condo number is, because they don’t want to go condo to condo.
Dispatch: Oh, there is hundreds of them there.

Officer: Police department, Hill speaking.
Dispatch: Hey, you’ve got people out with GPD right?
Officer: Yes, we do.
Dispatch: Ok, I need you to relay. They need to check some calls for us and they tried to call me on the phone and they lost contact and they said you would relay it to you and yours.
Officer: Ok, go ahead.
Dispatch: 1037 Wiley Oakley, we had a call fire all over the mountain, four couples stuck, lost contact.
Officer: Four couples?
Dispatch: Yes, and I”m going to try to call some of these back. GPD to check, let’s see relayed this to SPD. And there was one. I think I cleared it because I thought he was still with me.
Officer: Are we checking on these folks or are we trying to evacuate them?
Dispatch: Oh, we’re trying to check on them. These are calls that have come in… 845 Chestnut Drive.
Officer: 845 Chestnut Drive.
Dispatch: Yes, that come in trapped.
Officer: What am I doing at Chestnut Drive?
Dispatch: Do a welfare check. See if they find anybody.
Officer: Are they supposed to be trapped?
Dispatch: This is what it said. It had trapped. That was at 20:59 and I think it was when nobody could get up to the mountain.

Dispatch: Suway Village, Wiley Oakley, GPD called and said subject is trapped in the parking lot. GPD couldn’t get to them. They wanted us to get from the other side and we have no officers up there and I tried to holler back at them.
Officer: So that was from the Spur side?
Dispatch: Well that was at 20:52.
Officer: Ok.
Dispatch: They just called down here about subjects being trapped and we don’t have anybody up there and we can’t get there.
Officer: So they were in the parking lot?
Dispatch: Yes, so they probably know about it up there at command, but yeah…
Officer: Relayed via SPD and this is 23:33.
Dispatch: I have never had such a cluster in my life. We cannot get on the radio for the officers and we can’t get through to central.
Officer: Yes, I know.
Dispatch: Welfare check, 606 Wiley Oakley Drive for Peggy Sniders, elderly woman has trouble walking.
Officer: Ok, 606 Wiley Oakley.
Dispatch: 116 Chestnute Lane
Officer: Ok.
Dispatch: I’m going to try to call this one back. Trapped at residence…. yeah… I’m getting GPD to take a lot of these on the mountain and I’m having to relay through Sevierville and I’m going to try to call back the ones I can and see if they called out. Ok, 985 Chestnute Drive.
Officer: Ok.
Dispatch: That one had a female trapped in a garage.
Officer: Is Chestnut off of Wiley Oakley? Is all of that going to be in the same area?
Dispatch: Yes, I think so. Let’s see 23:35 GPD…. hang on a minute, hey, yes, I’m trying to think… they had to do that from out front… oooh I’m trying to think my brain is literally fried. Let me call Tony really quick and I’ll you right back. Ok, call Robert Grover. 765-0768. Oooh, I’ve lost my mind.
Officer: I need someone from command to call me. I’ve got multiple calls to relay from the sheriff’s department.
Dispatch: Ok, we’ve got 985 Chestnut, right?
Officer: Yeah.
Dispatch: Ok, relayed via SPD. Ok, I have no idea what this is. Ok, this is for all units evacuate now.
Officer: Ok, let me get these up there to them. See what they’re going to do. Call me back in about five.
Dispatch: Ok, I’ll keep sifting through these.

Dispatch: Sevierville Police Department.
Caller: Yes, I live over off of Wears Valley in Peter Falls Subdivision and I’m looking out my back door and I’m just wondering if we’re being evacuated?
Dispatch: If you see fire from your back door I would leave.
Caller: You would leave?
Dispatch: Yes, ma’am.
Caller: Ok, I’m getting out.

Dispatch: Sevierville Police Department.
Caller: Hi, my name is Ashley, I just have a really quick question if you could answer for me. Are they evacuating Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg?
Dispatch: Gatlinburg, yes. Pigeon Forge, anything from light eight through the Spur.
Caller: [Explicit]. Do you know if the Parkway is open or the highway or anything that we can get in to get family out.
Dispatch: No, the Spur is closed down southbound. I believe it was open northbound so people can get out, but you can’t get into Gatlinburg right now.
Caller: Ok, what if we have family over there? Is there a way we can get emergency personnel to help get them to us?
Dispatch: Do they not have a vehicle where they can get out or?
Caller: We don’t know. We can’t get in contact with anybody. It’s my boyfriend’s family and he’s staying with me in North Carolina and we’re just kind of freaking out trying to find family.
Dispatch: You would need to call Gatlinburg…
Caller: Well they are in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is no help either.
Dispatch: Do what now?
Caller: They are right on the Sevierville-Pigeon Forge border.
Dispatch: Here’s the thing. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are part of the evacuations, but Sevierville is not, so if they are in Sevierville, so if they are in Sevierville they’re not under evacuation. That’s why I asked where they are at.
Caller: I think they are in Pigeon Forge. I’m waiting for him to get off the phone now.
Dispatch: Yeah, find out where they are at.

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