How Prepared Are Sevier Fire Crews?

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Pigeon Forge, Sevier County (WVLT) - Each year, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg welcome millions of tourists, many of them staying in high rise hotels.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb is back from the smoky mountains, where he asked fire crews there how they would handle a response to a fire inside one of these tall buildings.

Over the years, firefighters in both towns have fought their share of large fires.

Officials say they're prepared for the next one, only because they've got the right equipment and training.

Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have their fair share of multistory buildings, all of which could request the services of the fire department at any time. Chiefs at both locations say the best way to fight a high rise fire is fire prevention, making sure it doesn't happen.

"Good annual inspection, as well as fire prevention with the management staffs, making sure they have emergency evacuation plans," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Patterson says.

Both cities have had their share of multistory fires in the past and like the Knoxville fire they're especially concerned about certain structures.

"Our older structures have to be where most of our worry is," says Tony Watson, Pigeon Forge Fire Chief.

In being prepared, they've had to make sure they have the proper equipment.

"I think the city leaders in the early 90's had some vision of what Pigeon Forge was going to become today and we were proactive instead of reactive in purchasing the ladder truck," says Chief Watson.

But ladder trucks can be expensive so many smaller municipalities have just one. So cities like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville have agreements in case of high rise fires.

"The importance of mutual aid is to have three ladder trucks instead of one," says Chief Patterson.

Preparation for high rise fires takes more than just equipment.

"We train weekly on different types of calls such as high rises," Patterson says.

And with all the training and equipment there's a good feeling.

"We're prepared to handle any type of emergency that occurs inside the city," Watson says.

Chief Patterson says every high rise owner should have a pre-plan with the department.

That way in case of fire the department will know where all the hydrants are, where any hazardous chemicals are kept, and other vital information to help them best fight the fire.

Chief Watson says they're also thinking down the road looking at possibly adding new fire stations and manpower.


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