SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — The Wears Valley community is hosting an appreciation dinner for the Wears Valley Volunteer Fire Department Wednesday evening to celebrate their work and efforts in fighting the Sevier County wildfires.

A firefighter with Wears Valley VFD said this is not just for them though, but also for their community. Brandon Headrick also said this is a chance for those impacted by the fires to come together, learn and prevent future wildfires.

“It was a long four to five days of fighting fire,” said Headrick. “It’s not that we’re just trying to do our jobs as firefighters, but it’s our community so it’s the people we know and we love.”

The community Headrick and his fellow firefighters fought so hard to protect is now working to celebrate those on the front lines with an appreciation dinner Wednesday night.

“Some community members started this and it’s really taken off,” he said. “We were not expecting this kind of output from people and the responses have been overwhelming.”

In addition to the dinner and live music, Headrick said there would also be information for residents about the wildfires.

“What we did to try to prevent more from happening, the way the command center works, the way that it works to the fire line, we have some maps that our county has printed for us of the fires and we’re going to be able to show them how the fire progressed into other areas,” said Headrick.

He also spoke about the partnership between them and other nearby fire departments in terms of this fire.

“A lot of this fire was in the Walden’s Creek area, about a quarter to a third of it was in Walden’s Creek,” explained Headrick. “Their fire started about three to four hours after ours did, that’s when it topped into the mountain into Walden’s Creek.”

Headrick described where they pull their resources from.

“The resources get spread very thin and so you have to draw resources from not only in the county, but surrounding counties,” he said. “What you have to think about is if we’re in this high of a fire danger and we’re pushed to the limits, other agencies, even if they’re not on a fire at that time, the whole county is dry and the whole county is in a burn ban”

Headrick explained without the help from Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department and other agencies across the region and state, containing the wildfires wouldn’t have been possible.

Headrick also took a moment to explain what the WVVFD lost in the fires.

“We did lose a wildland truck, it was a 2019 wildland truck, so it was almost a brand new vehicle to us and we were very excited about it,” said Headrick. He added the truck was lost on the top of Hatcher Mountain along with three other departments’ vehicles.

However, Headrick explains the lost vehicles are not what donations are being accepted for.

“This is more about raising money for our fire department, showing them the love that they need, they deserve and also to help the community get through this,” he said.

Headrick said in the end, it’s about rebuilding their community while also trying to heal.

“We have got to try and find the hope in this, we have got to try the benefit of this and we can’t just dwell on the horrible things that just happened,” he said. “We need to take this as an insight and as a learning experience and try to get better and more aware and better prepared for the next one.”

The appreciation dinner for the Wears Valley Volunteer Fire Department is Wednesday, April 13, 2022. It will be held at Wearwood Elementary from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is free for those wanting to attend. Aside from hearing stories from the front lines and learning new information about the wildfires, there will also be fire-wise tips for homeowners.

For those who are not able to make it to Wednesday’s appreciation dinner, they can send donations to the Wears Valley Fire Department via the P.O. Box address below. They can also send donations via Venmo to WVVFD with @WearsValleyFire.

Wears Valley Volunteer Fire Department
P.O. Box 1155
Pigeon Forge, TN 37868

Headrick also said the Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department is also accepting donations. The address is below.

Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department
2828 Goose Gap Road
Sevierville, TN 37876

Firewise tips for home

  • Try to have a 30ft area clean of debris around your home
  • Keep all landscaping that is within 0-5ft from home below 5ft to help prevent heating of fire at home
  • Make sure roof and vents are free of debris in valleys and gutters.
  • Never store flammable products such as wood for heaters on porches or against the home.
  • Non-combustible siding and double pane windows are the best defense against wildfires.
  • Make sure your home and neighborhood have legible signage for road names and addresses so emergency services can find and access your properties easier and faster.