SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Video captured by the Sevierville Police Department shows the dramatic situations officers were put in while helping people evacuate during the 2016 wildfires in Sevier County.
Released to News 2 following an Open Records Request, the video shows officers checking in the dark for people left behind as the fire swept through Gatlinburg.
During the night, dispatchers with the police department and sheriff’s office were flooded with calls from concerned people from the area and around the country.
“We are telling anyone that calls in about the fires to evacuate,” explained a dispatcher.
The Sevier County government released 911 calls on Wednesday.
“I’m on top of Wiley Oakley and we are on fire,” one caller said.
The emotional calls paint a horrific picture of the night that 14 people lost their lives.
“I can’t get down the road because of a log and there’s fire all around us. We can’t go anywhere because of a tree and have no other way out,” cried an emotional woman.
At times, radio traffic seems to describe a situation even too intense for firefighters.
“All the structures immediately below Park Vista are now involved. We’ve got flame lengths greater than 40 feet,” one said to dispatch.
PHOTOS: Wildfires in East Tennessee
That is followed by a voice suggesting firefighters need to escape to safety as well.
“I would advise all the crews to retreat to safety,” someone is heard saying.
Dispatchers try keeping the trapped calm but some didn’t have the answers to their questions.
“Honestly ma’am, I have absolutely no idea how long it’s going to be before somebody can get up there. All I can tell you at this point ma’am is use your own personal discretion on what to do,” one caller was told.
The fire began on 1.5 acres in a remote area of the park. Amid extreme drought conditions, high winds helped the fire jump mountain ranges for more than five miles. The fire killed 14 people in the Gatlinburg area as it ravaged thousands of buildings.