Neddy Mountain evacuees return home

Nov. 15, 2016: Two families who were evacuated because of the fire of Neddy Mountain are now back in their mountain top homes.

COCKE COUNTY - The smoke started billowing on Neddy Mountain Friday, and by Saturday morning two families were asked to pack their things and head down the mountain, quickly.

There are only two homes at the summit of the mountain in Cocke County. The Lopez couple, who live with their four Yorkie dogs, and the Bowers couple.

"This is what we worked for our entire lives. It's the place we retired to enjoy it and you know it's our home," said James Lopez.

Lopez and his wife, Tery, moved to the mountain in 2015 from Illinois. They love it.

"We have this beautiful view. It's usually just mountains and the river. It's quiet and we prefer it that way," he said.

The Bowers couple has been enjoying the same views for the past nine years.

"It's like being on vacation every day. I wake up and get my coffee and I look out and there's mountains and there's rivers," said Lurline Bowers.

The mountains and rivers are now clouded with thick white smoke. The mountain this family calls home is burning. Since Friday, it's burned about 1,100 acres.

PREVIOUS: Neddy Mountain Fire 75% Contained

The smoke clouding their panoramic view on Monday, is nothing like the scene on Saturday.

"The fire was lapping right in here so that's how close it was. You can see it's still smoldering," said Lopez, pointing to a charred forest about 20 feet from his home.

"Helicopters came over and actually dumped water on our house. It was so smoky in here you couldn't even see each other," said Lopez.
 
On Saturday, fire bosses told the Lopez and the Bowers families it was in their best interest to leave their homes behind and go stay down the mountain.
 

 
Three people packed up, but one stayed behind.
 
"We have to protect our home. I wasn't being stupid. Even the firemen said when we've got to go, we're all going. So, I said that's when I'm leaving too, when the last fireman does," said Lopez.
 
Lopez says he helped the firefighters the best he could. He was outside helping blow leaves away from the growing flames.
 
"They were doing everything they could to make sure our homes were safe, that we were safe," said Lopez.
 
Lopez's wife did not stay behind. She went down the mountain with their dogs and stayed with friends.
 
 
 
The Bowers slept in a local motel Saturday night hoping for the best.
 
"Somehow I was born an optimist. I kept thinking, 'It'll be alright they're on the job,'" Lurline Bowers said.
 
The hard work of the firefighters - possibly coupled with Bowers' optimistic thoughts and slow wind speeds - helped keep the flames away from these two homes.
 
"It was like a war zone. It was incredible. If we were going to be saved these people were going to be the ones to do it," said Bowers.
 
As of Tuesday evening, only one fire crew remained on top of Neddy Mountain. They're monitoring the containment lines and hot spots that are still smoldering.
 
"I don't know how they do it. They're all so awesome," said Lopez.
 
"They're amazing. Can you imagine how bad their lungs and knees must hurt? They walk all over this mountain all day," said Bowers.
 
These families are incredibly thankful for the hard work of the firefighters and very happy to be back home.
 
"What can you say ... these are brave men and women and I thank them, I thank them all," said Lopez.
 
Bowers is happy to be home, but she doesn't feel quite like she is.
 
"When the sky is clear and the vehicles are gone, then it will start to feel normal again. I'm waiting for normal still," she said.
 
The families are understandably still shaken up by this close call, and are hoping they don't have another one like it ever again.

(© 2016 WBIR)


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment