A calm day is welcome at the Sevier County 911 Central Dispatch Center because nearly a year ago, it was a chaotic scene.

As the Chimney Tops 2 fire quickly approached Gatlinburg, the phone lines became full of emergencies.

It was Nov. 28, 2016, and dispatcher and shift supervisor Timothy Fisher was home on his day off when his phone started to ring.

"I was here for 16 hours straight," Fisher said. "It was very hectic, very chaotic. Nonstop phone calls."

MORE: Dispatchers recount 'chaotic' night during Gatlinburg wildfires

In the sea of calls, there is one emergency from that night Fisher just can't let go.

Around 2 a.m., Fisher got a 911 call from inside an elevator at the 4000 building at Westgate Resort. Reba and Joe Williams, a couple from Alabama, were stuck inside.

Reba and Joe Williams pose for a photo
<p>Reba (in the purple, second to the left) and Joe Williams (in the blue on the far right) survived being stuck in an elevator at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa during the wildfires in Gatlinburg.</p>

"The elevator's on fire. We're burning," Reba Williams said in between big breaths.

"My first thought was, I couldn't believe it," Fisher said about the call. "I didn't know there was anything left at Westgate, to be honest, and to hear the panic in her voice. It was a little scary for a minute."

With a little advice from another dispatcher and firefighter, Fisher started telling the couple what to do.

"Can you use any of your clothing to put over your face? Okay? To help you breathe," Fisher told the couple inside the elevator.

Fisher stayed on the phone and radioed for firefighters and police to help as the situation turned dire.

There are moments on the 911 tapes Reba started telling her husband to pray. She also told 10News she was starting to say her goodbyes as she could hear the building collapse around them.


"I'm sure it's still on the recording just 'please God, let them get there fast.' After I talked to her for a few minutes that was my reaction, just 'please God, let them get there fast,'" Fisher said.

Meanwhile, Gatlinburg Fire Capt. Wayne Brandenburg heard the call come over the radio. He decided to respond to help the other firefighters already at Westgate.

"We took off and we went up and there was still a lot of downed trees and real thick smoke and fire," Brandenburg said.

Soon after, Fisher realized by talking to Reba, rescuing them was a matter of life or death.

Fisher asked Reba how long the two had been inside the elevator. Reba answered "since 8 p.m. the night before," meaning the couple had been stuck inside the elevator for eight hours.

"I could not believe it. I couldn't believe they had been in there that long," Fisher said.

After Fisher calmed the couple, the call suddenly dropped. When firefighters arrived at the building, it was starting to collapse.

"I didn't think we would find anyone alive," Brandenburg said.

Fisher kept calling the elevator phone, hoping the firefighters would hear the phone ring or Reba would pick up.

"Sure enough we heard them hollering for help," Brandenburg said.

Firefighters with Gatlinburg Fire, Sevierville Fire and Andersonville Volunteer Fire departments then pried open the elevator door and rescued the couple.

Brandenburg then made the call Fisher was waiting for all night.

"We've located and rescued both people in the elevator in the 4,000 building EMS is on scene," Brandenburg radioed to Fisher.

Brandenburg said it was such a relief to find Reba and Joe alive.

"[It was a] big relief, big breath, everyone took a breath and said 'thank God.' That's what it was like in there and it was finally something good after hearing all the panic, all the chaos. It was something good," Fisher said.

While he was with them on the phone, Fisher believed God was with Reba and Joe inside the burning elevator car.

"He was with them and that's the only reason it happened," Fisher said.

Fisher said the first responders are the true heroes in this story.

"We were listening to it on the phones and radio, but they were looking at it, they were there dealing with it," he said.

Brandenburg said it took everyone involved, every voice to bring Reba and Joe to safety.

"Those guys came in and gave it their all and they are going to give it their all the rest of the time they are in this service," Brandenburg said.

When firefighters went back the next day, the elevator shaft was the only piece of the building left. The elevator car, which had been on the second level, was on the ground.

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