The continuing rain in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area has helped calm the fire crisis, but the situation is still dire.
A joint task force of Williamson County firefighting squads, along with other departments from around the state, continues to assist in the effort.
“We got to bed around 4 a.m. last night and were back at the command post in Pigeon Forge at 8 a.m.,” Terry Hood, Spring Hill fire chief, said.
Currently the Williamson County task force, consisting of roughly 50 firefighters and 15 engines, trucks and support vehicles from Spring Hill, Franklin, Brentwood and Williamson County, is split into two squads hitting calls together. They headed east Tuesday morning, responding to a statewide call for men and equipment.
“We thought because of the rain we might be going home Wednesday, but we are still assigned and still running calls, even though it is raining like nobody’s business,” Hood said Wednesday morning. “The rain helped some but not a lot because there are so many fires.”
The task force, as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, was battling an electrical fire at the Pigeon Forge Welcome Center. Hood said they will be sent to Gatlinburg next.
There are still many structural fires in the evacuated city, and various reports of at least two people still missing. Unconfirmed reports so far put total fatalities at four.
Tuesday night Hood’s Williamson County group went to work until about 4 a.m. fighting brush fires in dangerous conditions in the mountains around Pigeon Forge.
“We had one big brush fire we fought on top of a mountain, and I mean on top, you couldn’t see the edges, obviously it was dark, and with the rain it was just a mud road,” Hood said.
Dollywood’s DreamResort, which itself is now being threatened with encroaching fires, has put up the entire county task force, while TGIF and Flapjacks in the area have offered free meals to all in the effort.
Meanwhile, community support has poured into the command center at Pigeon Forge Fire Station 1, which Hood said is currently filled to the brim with donated bottled water, barbeque, popcorn and any other food and drink they could ask for.
“The community has just filled this fire hall with supplies, 500 cases of water, fried chicken, oranges, and so much more, so we can recharge and get right back to work,” Hood said. “It is amazing to see the support.”