Cornered firefighters escape flames during mountain rescue

A Hawkins County man talks about being rescued by firefighters when a wildfire got out of control

HAWKINS COUNTY - A fire spreading on a steep, remote mountainside in Hawkins County trapped seven firefighters and one man Tuesday night.

Roy Simpson, who grew up on King Break Mountain, went out for a walk before dark Tuesday. But, as the sun set, he noticed a growing fire on the ridge and soon the smoke overwhelmed him.

"I saw the fire at the top and then all of a sudden I couldn't get out," said Simpson.

Simpson said he tried to keep his head down to combat the smoke, but it was so thick he began to think he wouldn't make it off the mountainside. He was trapped for about two hours. 

"All of a sudden I saw lights and heard people yelling and they'd come to save me," said Simpson.

While Simpson was in distress, several nearby fire agencies responded to reports of smoke on King Break Mountain. When they were en route, another call came in that a man was stuck on the north side of the mountain.

"We had to go in and locate him. We ended up having like seven firefighters that got pinned in down at the bottom and we had to extricate all them up to the top of the mountain last night," said Capt. Frank Vaughn with the Carter Valley Fire Department.

Vaughn says the seven firefighters were from the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the Church Hill Fire Department and the Goshen Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

A few of the firefighters were transported to a nearby hospital to be examined for a hurt shoulder and smoke inhalation. There were no serious injuries.

"Once we were able to get everyone off and to the top and made sure there was no serious bodily injuries to them or anything it was a big relief to everybody and everyone that's here working," said Vaughn.

The most incredible part about the rescue is that no one was seriously hurt. Simpson says ropes were thrown down the mountain side and he and the firemen had to climb them to get back out.

"It was a major deal just getting out of there. It was so steep you couldn't stand most the time," said Simpson.
 
Simpson and the firefighters are recovering at home.
 
Meanwhile, the remainder of the crews are still working to get the fire under control.
 
"The problem is it's in a draw, so when it gets to the bottom it's going to come rushing up this side towards this house we're trying to protect now," said Vaughn.
 
As of Wednesday evening, only one home was in jeopardy but others are close by.
 
Crews used hoses to wet down the roof and brush surrounding the home. The brush and undergrowth are another big problem.
 
"There's been no significant rainfall. So there's a lot of undergrowth and it's so dry. Once a little ember gets to it, it's gone," said Vaughn.
 
Vaughn hopes to have the fire contained by Wednesday evening.
 
The fire has burned around 30 acres. The cause of the fire is not known and is under investigation.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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