Brentwood firefighters returning from Gatlinburg share their experience

(Courtesy: National Park Service)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The fire that ripped through Gatlinburg last week is now under control thanks to hundreds of firefighters who dropped everything and headed to the mountains to help out.

Some of those fire crews are now back home.

A group of eight firefighters from Brentwood went to the Gatlinburg area for a five-day deployment to help out last week and now they’re sharing that experience with News 2.

Even for firefighters, the devastation was staggering.

“You couldn’t wrap your head around it; truly, to see how much had burned up. How many little cottages and houses, they’re not there anymore,” said Ronnie King.

“To me it looked almost like a war zone. It’s amazing that fire can cause that much damage. You really don’t understand what it can do until you see it with your own eyes,” said Jason Sykes.

Sykes and King were among the eight-person team from Brentwood Fire and Rescue.

They worked up to 16-hour days, attacking hot spots and searching buildings for victims.

It was hard work in an unfamiliar terrain.

“It’s a different experience, especially at nighttime. You got to watch your step because there’s a cliff right there. So you take the wrong step, and you could be in serious trouble,” said Sykes.

Gatlinburg is a special place for people all over the country and for many of the firefighters, it was especially difficult.

“You’re not used to seeing that. You’re used to looking at these beautiful views. And the views are still there, but you’re having to look at it through rubble and rock,” said Ronnie King.

And fighting for it was personal.

“You’re trying to protect the people and the environment, so there is a place to go to in the future,” said Sykes.

But the firefighters are happy to be back home and when asked if they would go back if needed, they said in a heartbeat.

Click here for continuing coverage of the Sevier County wildfire.