‘It was unbelievable’: Murfreesboro firefighters reflect after helping with wildfires

(Courtesy: Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department)
(Courtesy: Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – A week after being deployed to help with uncontained wildfires in Sevier County, all of Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue’s crews is back home.

It was a burning inferno wild fires raging out of control.

“With the total devastation in the area we were in, it was unbelievable. Never seen anything like that before,” Captain Mark McCluskey said.

“I’ve never been in war, but I would say it would look that,” he added.

It was too much for Gatlinburg firefighters to handle alone. The department sent 50 personnel over the course of a week to assist with the uncontained wildfire in Sevier County, Tennessee.

(Courtesy: Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department)
(Courtesy: Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department)

“A Gatlinburg fireman said at the time he had been on the clock I think the past 83 hours,” Engineer Mitchell Whittenburg said.

The Murfreeboro Fire and Rescue Department was one of the first departments to dispatch to help and one of the last teams to leave. The final team arrived back home on Monday.

In his 13 years of firefighting, Whittenburg has never seen anything like he did in Gatlinburg.

“No, not the amount of fire devastation up there,” Whittenburg said. “It was amazing to see the amount of structures on the ground.”

Team one was on the front lines.

“Started fighting fires and continue fighting fires all day long,” McCluskey said.

(Courtesy: Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department)
(Courtesy: Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department)

Team two also in the thick of things.

“They did do a little bit of firefighting and after that it went more to a search, rescue, and search and recovery operation,” McCluskey said.

And then team three provided much-needed relief.

“We just came in and ran local calls,” McCluskey said.

Captain McCluskey compared the devastation to the deadly tornadoes that hit Murfreesboro.

“We had the Good Friday tornadoes here; kind of remind me of that, how it skipped around and get some houses and some houses it wouldn’t bother,” McCluskey said. “It was total devastation to the town. In all my years of my fire service, I’ve never seen anything with this total devastation.”

Murfreessboro Fire was not just there for fire suppression support. They were also there emotionally. They sent a chaplin to help those firefighters in Gatlinburg cope with the devastating fire.

Click here for complete coverage of the Sevier County wildfire.