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First responders describe battling Sevier County fires

One of the firefighters battling the Hatcher Mountain Wildfire described being that close to the flames as “having a sunburn and then putting a heavy jacket on”.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 11:38 PM EDT
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SEVIER CO., Tenn. (WVLT) - Multiple agencies responded to Wears Valley Wednesday after a wildfire started burning out of control.

“Some of the most scared I’ve ever been,” said Josh Roach. He’s one of the many firefighters that were called in from out of town to help.

Roach, along with his colleagues at the Englewood Fire Department spent days battling the flames. In the process of putting out fires, they were able to save a cabin.

That cabin belongs to Josie Miller, who had it built in 2017. Three years before, her husband passed away. For decades they talked about building a cabin together, so that’s exactly what Miller did to keep her late husband’s memory alive.

When she found out the fires were burning neighboring cabins down, she assumed hers was next. Then she saw a video on Facebook that showed Roach and others at her cabin standing bravely in the face of the flames, eventually saving the home. This act of service brought Miller to tears and she eventually would get the chance to thank them over the phone.

“It made it feel extra special when we heard her story,” said Roach.

Roach described being that close to the flames as “having a sunburn and then putting a heavy jacket on”. His colleague Jalen Walker described what it was like saving Miller’s home.

“The wind gusts got up to 82 miles an hour where we were at pushing fire towards us,” said Walker.

At the New Market Fire Department, they’re sending four people at a time to keep fresh legs.

Shayne Coffey was one of those that were sent to the Sevier County mountains. He was one of the people pictured taking a quick nap in their fire engine to rest before going back to work.

New Market firefighters taking every moment they can to rest up before returning to the blaze. How you can help: https://bit.ly/3wQ5e8v

Posted by WVLT on Thursday, March 31, 2022

“We got maybe 30 minutes of sleep,” said Coffey.

His uncle, Sammy Solomon, said he could barely sleep while his nephew was in the mountains.

With unpredictable winds, this has been an especially tough task for crews.

“We’re at God’s mercy, hopefully he keeps us safe,” said Roach.

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