SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Multiple counties in East Tennessee are experiencing wildfires, and with the seven-year anniversary of the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires approaching, it’s hard not to find similarities between then and now.
Becky Williams remembers exactly where she was seven years ago.
“I was downstairs because the winds had picked up,” said Williams, “I came upstairs, saw flames, and literally grabbed what we could, clothes on our backs, phones, handbag things like that and evacuated.”
Williams said the most important thing to consider is your safety.
“You know nothing else matters and there is no way you can gather the things,” she said. “Because everything is important, I mean when it’s your home that you’re talking about so you just have to let that go and just realize that your safety is more important.”
Since the fire, the one thing that still concerns Williams is the wind, which can reach up to 90 miles per hour where she lives.
Sevier County put a Red Flag Warning in place on Monday for that reason.
“Anytime there is wind it’s going to potentiate that as well, as far as the possibility of ignition occurring and the spread of the fire,” said Sevier County Fire and Rescue Chief David Puckett.
There are preventative measures you can take to potentially save your home in case of a wildfire.
“One of the big things that we recommend is keeping a buffer zone or defensible space around your homes… clear your combustibles around your space of leaves, brush and things of that nature,” said Puckett.
Things like firewood and furniture cushions should be kept off your front porch and take extra precautions with tools that can cause a spark. They also provide an emergency broadcast 1680 AM for people in the area and Red Alerts.
With there being a drought, they do say it may not be good to water your lawn every day. However, it may be a good idea to do so this week. Additionally, leaving hoses easily accessible could also help your local firefighters.
“We’re doing everything we can to try and help protect property, but it starts with the homeowner and what they do to set up for success,” said Puckett.
Williams urges those who may be in an evacuation situation to get out as soon as possible.
“Again, I’m so grateful that we were able to get out with our lives and so things don’t mean as much as they used to,” said Williams.
Sevier County Fire and Rescue also suggests packing a small go bag of essential items like documents, phone chargers, and flashlights in the case of an evacuation.
A strict burn ban remains in effect in the area.