Clean-up crews work tirelessly in Sevier County to prevent ecological disaster

Courtesy: Matt Church

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – More than a week after the deadly Sevier County wildfire, clean-up crews are continuing to work hard.

Many volunteers and rescue crews from all over the country, including locally, have helped Sevier County recover.

Among those includes a small, but dedicated group of remediation experts who are literally on the riverbank vacuuming up soot and fire debris so it doesn’t get into the water system and cause an ecological disaster.

Courtesy: Matt Church
Courtesy: Matt Church

“It’s unprecedented how everyone is working together. It doesn’t matter what part of the country they came from, we are all here for Gatlinburg,” said Matt Church of Premier Protective Services.

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Church has sent News 2 pictures of his crews working. At times, the video looks like a moonscape with burned out buildings and vehicles.

“There are some areas of Gatlinburg that looks like a war-zone and you head down the streets and it looks like nothing happened,” Church said.

In one of the videos, he walks down a charred corridor that was once a motel that opened on the river bank of the Cliff Branch River.

“It is a disaster, so there are heavy contaminants, but at this time, it is minimal in the creek,” Church said. “Water quality is good, and our goal is to keep it that way.”

Courtesy: Matt Church
Courtesy: Matt Church

As far as clean ups go, Church said it is a tough job on many levels, including the now-cold and wet conditions, for his five man team. Besides the weather, the ground is slippery and the structures looming over the river are not always stable.

“We are working under a structure completely destroyed. There is falling rocks. A little bit of everything,” he said. “This is not an everyday job, so you have to prepare for the elements.”

There’s also the logistics of stretching a five-inch hose from one side of the river to a vacuum truck parked 50 feet away.

“We got a guy in the creek and the truck is across the creek,” Church explained. “It’s in a safe spot across the street and the operations are on this side of the street.”

Church’s crew plans to be in Gatlinburg for several more weeks. He added their 40-foot command trailer will arrive next week.

Click here for complete coverage of the Sevier County wildfire.