SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — All that’s left of Sevier County Volunteer Fire Department Tanker 111 is melted metal, a horn, and one air bottle after it was destroyed in the Wears Valley wildfire.
“This is a big strain on us. The county gives us money every year that we can count on for our budgetary purposes and $248,000 to replace a truck wasn’t in the budget,” Chief Stephen Whaley said.
Now Whaley and his crew are hoping to bridge the gap between their insurance payout and the lack of funding for a replacement truck.
“Over the past couple of years, fire truck prices have more than tripled so the same truck we bought several years ago is now over $100,000 more for the same truck,” he said.
Northview Kodak firefighters are in a similar situation. They lost their beloved Engine 44 in the wildfire last month.
“We did have insurance and different things but it’s just not enough to replace everything that was lost during the fire that day,” said Firefighter Daniel Willis.
To cover their losses, both fire departments will be having fundraiser dinners with auctions.
“We have been donated some items from Dale Earnhardt Sr. as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” Willis said. “So we’re going to have some really neat items there. Robert Tino actually reached out and donated a beautiful print that not only is signed, but it’s actually personally signed on the back as well.”
Sevier County firefighters will have some cool items at their auction too including an old Chevy half-ton that’s been fixed up as good as new.
“One of our community members came in and donated it. He saw that we have a need,” Whaley said. “He didn’t need the vehicle. It’s actually a pretty good-looking truck. He’s donated that for us. Several businesses in the area have donated stuff from guided fishing trips to spa days.”
Whaley reports county leaders are doing all they can to help fire departments that experienced a loss but anything not budgeted will have to come directly out of a department’s pockets.
He added, “Our community around here steps up every time they see a need and they always step up and help us fill it.”
The Sevier County Volunteer Fire Department fundraiser is happening on May 14 starting at 8:00 a.m. at their station (149 Industrial Park Drive, Sevierville, TN 37862). A pancake breakfast will be served and tickets are $5. If you’re interested in donating an item for their silent auction, message them on their Facebook page.
As for the Northview Kodak Fire fundraiser, will be on May 21 at Northview Intermediate School (3295 Douglas Dam Rd, Kodak, TN 37764). Events start at 4:00 p.m. To donate an item or to learn more about the fundraiser, call (865) 548-1965.