DECEMBER 1, 2016, NASHVILLE, Tenn., By Randy D. Harris – As fires of historic proportion raged Tuesday, more than 120 Tennessee Army National Guard Soldiers mobilized to east Tennessee to assist Sevier County Emergency Management personnel in wildlife response, transporting first responders, removing light debris and assisting with welfare checks.
Soldiers from units in Maryville, Pigeon Forge, Morristown, Newport, Greeneville, Lenoir City, Knoxville and Bristol were to move to the operations center in Pigeon Forge to assist the Tennessee Highway Patrol with health and welfare checks and local responders with debris removal and transportation throughout the affected area.
At least 100 homes were damaged or destroyed by flames, state emergency officials told news media, and more than 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg, USA Today reported.
“The Tennessee National Guard is uniquely qualified to not only fight our nation’s wars, but also to respond to emergency operations here at home,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee adjutant general. “We are working closely with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, numerous other state agencies and the local responders in Sevier and surrounding counties to assist in whatever is required to save lives and property.”
The Tennessee National Guard has been in the wildfire fight for several weeks providing local responders with UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters utilizing Bambi Buckets to fight fires in southeastern Tennessee.