GATLINBURG (WATE) – WATE 6 On Your Side has received thousands of heartbreaking 911 and dispatch recordings, as well as dash cam video and hundreds of documents, from Sevier County and Gatlinburg from the night of the deadly wildfires.
During many of the recordings earlier in the night, residents are asking about the location of the fires and whether they should evacuate. Many calls are transferred to other agencies. As the night wears on and the fires continue to rage, the topics of the calls shift to people desperately trying to make sure their loved ones are safe, reporting buildings that have caught on fire, and reporting that they need to be rescued.
One heartbreaking call appears to be from one of the 14 victims of the fire, Constance Reed. Her husband Michael Reed spent hours searching for her and their two daughters. He told reporters the night of the fire the last time he talked with his wife was around 8:15 p.m. and he told her to call 911.
In the call, the caller says the fire is next door to the house, her husband isn’t home and she and her children have no way out.
The dispatcher then attempts to connect the caller with the Gatlinburg Police Department, but appears to have lost the call. She passes on the caller’s address and information to Gatlinburg police. The address she gives 911 dispatch is registered to Michael and Constance Reed, according to Sevier County property records.
Constance Reed, along with her two daughters Chloe and Lily, were found dead on Wiley Oakley Drive, just a few blocks away.
Many other calls were from frantic residents who were scared and stranded.
Dispatch: “Okay, but there is no way you can get out safely? You can’t get in your vehicle and get out?”
Caller: “No! No, we cannot.”
Caller: “There are trees and wires down on both sides of us.”
Dispatch: “Okay. We’ll notify….”
Caller: “The fire is here! The fire is here!”
Dispatch: “Ma’am, we’ll notify the fire department and we will let them know your address, okay?”
Caller: “**** Wiley Oakley.”
Dispatch: “I’ve got it, **** Wiley Oakley Drive.”
Caller: “We are scared.”
Dispatch: “I understand ma’am and I’m sorry. We’ll get them up there to you as quickly as possible.”
911:Okay, so you don’t have any other way you can go to try to get out of there?
Caller: No, other than walk.
Caller: should we walk. Should we stay put until somebody comes and gets the tree so we can get out?
911: Honestly ma’am I have absolutely no idea how long it’s going to be before somebody can get up there.
Caller: Okay, well have the ecavuated everything up here?
911: Yeah, everything in the Gatlinburg area, everyone is being advised to leave
Caller: Okay well, see nobody told us anything until We started seeing flames over on the other side of the mountain.
Caller: What do you want us to do, do you want us to sit still or do you want us to start walking?
911: All I can tell you at this point ma’am is use your own personal discretion on what you need to do. but I can tell you that I don’t know for sure exactly when somebody can get up there to you to clear that for you. >
Newly released dashcam video from the Gatlinburg Police Department shows officers patrolling the downtown area the day of the deadly wildfires. One video is taken around 3 p.m. showing how heavy the smoke was early that day.
WATE 6 On Your Side spent hours sifting through hundreds of documents. Among them was a detailed timeline that gave time stamps of actions made by first responders and reports of fires around Gatlinburg.
The first brush fire was clocked at 3:15 in the afternoon in Chalet Village. A tree fell on a power line.Then, aerial units were set up along the parkway to prevent commercial buildings from catching fire. Documents said they couldn’t move to the mountainous roads.
At 5:46 p.m., another brush fire was reported off of East Parkway. This was also caused by a downed power line. At 6:08 p.m., fire was inside the city limits. Just after 7 p.m., there is a brush fire on Ski Mountain Road. A total evacuation of the city was ordered around 8 p.m.
Pigeon Forge shuts down the spur at 8:12 in the evening. A letter from what appears to be from an employee of Gatlinburg Fire Department explained why the fire was “dynamic” and “unpredictable.” It said smoke Chimney Tops fire settled over Gatlinburg and creating a thermal inversion. In essence, it prevented smoke from escaping. The writer said this could explain the fires erratic behavior.
The City of Gatlinburg also provided a list of who called 911 the day of and after the deadly wildfires. There were time stamps of calls made by Michael Reed. There was also a note about a check on Alice Hagler at Rocky Top Sports World the day after the fires.
WATE 6 On Your Side is poring through the calls, video and hundreds of documents and will update this story as more information becomes available.