On Monday November 28, 2016 at approximately 10:00 p.m. the Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Department was requested by a regional coordinator to respond to assist the Gatlinburg Fire Department with a devastating wildfire. The Shady Valley firefighters answered that call with a Wildland attack unit and tanker unit with six total personnel leaving for the Smoky Mountains.
Arriving in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area around 1:00 a.m., crews encountered an inferno around the Smoky Mountains. With fire lining the roadways and debris such as trees and power lines down everywhere along the route into Gatlinburg, crews made their way to the staging area. From here, assignments were issued and firefighters from Shady Valley were teamed up with other responding agencies and as a team worked to protect structures that weren’t damaged and to extinguish hot spots in structures already lost. Working until 1:00 p.m. the next day, the crew of six were exhausted after 12 continuous hours of hard work. It was decided to release the tanker unit and five personnel and return to Shady Valley.
Upon returning, three additional personnel responded back with the wildland attack unit, picked up the additional firefighter who stayed and once again went back to work. This team of four worked throughout the night and into the next morning doing structure protection in remote areas and performing search operations for victims. All firefighters returned to Shady Valley on Wednesday, November 30 at 2:00 p.m.
“What we saw and what we did to assist is hard to explain in words,” said Charles McQueen, Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Department Chief. “The devastation will leave a lasting impact on the entire Smoky Mountain area and will leave an impact with our responders. We appreciate all the support we received from our community, county and entire region. Please remember all of those that have lost belongings, homes, and loved ones due to this disaster. We also would like to remind everyone to say thank you to your local emergency personnel for their selfless service that they give daily to protect their communities. “
The following Shady Valley Firefighters responded to Gatlinburg: Capt. Kenneth McQueen, Lt. Norman Hodge, Lt. Bradley McQueen, Lt. Daniel Dugger, Chief Engineer Tom Hutchinson, Engineer Gary Roark, Firefighter Matthew Roark. The following firefighters from Johnson County responded as well: Asst. Chief Shawn Brown (Neva Volunteer Fire Department), and Firefighter Jason Arnold (Mountain City Fire Department).