SD Crew Calls Gatlinburg Wildfire An “Eye Opener”

Dec 1, 2016

The Chimney Top 2 Fire in the Great Smokey Mountains burned into the town of Gatlinburg, TN.

A crew of firefighters normally stationed in the Black Hills is helping fight massive wildfires in Tennessee.  

The fires have killed numerous people, burned several hundred homes, and caused thousands of people to evacuate.

Mark Menning is Crew Boss for the South Dakota Black Hat Hand Crew that includes 20 firefighters.    He says members of his team are used to fighting fire in the pine forests of the mountain west.  The Appalachian Mountains offer a different terrain and different fuels.

“Definitely been an eye opener seeing how fast the fire moved with the winds they had.  They reported gusts of 85 mile per hour winds yesterday and how fast it burned into the communities and towns,” says Menning.

Menning says recent rain on the fire helped slow its progress.   Menning and his crew are fighting in what’s known as a wildland urban interface.  This is where the forest meets a town or city.  Officials say when fires enter more urbanized areas they can become much more complex and difficult to fight.     

Officials say the Chimney Tops 2 Fire fire is human caused and an investigation is underway.