NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It has been almost one year since wildfires tore through Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, killing 14 people.
While it burned across the mountain sides, firefighters from all over came to the rescue. The Nashville Fire Department responded with two engines and several ambulances.
“You can’t really know that scene until you get there,” explained Nicholas Franklin, a firefighter on Engine 4 in South Nashville.
The NFD made their way to Gatlinburg to salvage what they could.
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“They called us that morning and asked for volunteers, if we were willing to go, and we all said yes,” explained Jeb Clariday.
Franklin and Clariday were among a handful tasked with battling structure fires and search and recovery for five days in East Tennessee.
“As we were going up through the road, there’s fire on both sides,” recalled Clariday.
Clariday said it was hard to prepare, and even harder to leave East Tennessee behind.
He said he recently went back to Gatlinburg with his family and said he did not know what to expect nearly a year later.
“The biggest part other than stopping the fire, the largest majority of the work is to be done after the fire,” he said.
Both firefighters said the bond they made with others there helping is unbroken.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat. I enjoyed riding with them,” said Clariday.
Almost 365 days after people ran for their lives, the leaves are beginning to change and Gatlinburg is rebuilding while Nashville’s firefighters are back here answering calls for help.
“Nature recovers and there are people there helping along, so it is great,” Franklin said.