Early on a Tuesday morning, November 19 just before 6 a.m., a neighbor reported sighting a house fire on Leaf Hawk Lane. All six volunteer fire departments throughout the county were called to the scene due to the time of day and struggle to gather enough responders. These departments include Southern Brown, Hamblen Township, Cordry-Sweetwater, Nashville, Jackson Township, and Fruitdale. The group of departments fought the fire for over 4 ½ hours.
The fire was visible from State Road 46 West as the flames engulfed the structure of the home at the top of Schooner Hill. Some students and teachers reported seeing the active fire on their way into school.
Nick Kelp, Chief of the Nashville department, stated they were initially concerned that a person was in the home upon arrival, because they were alerted that a car was in the driveway. Kelp says, “That, plus time of day, is usually a good indicator for possible victims in the structure if they are not accounted for.”
The volunteer firefighters attempted to perform a rescue search in the area of the home that was not burning at the time, but were unable to stay in the home long due to the severity of the fire. The fire had been burning for some time before arrival and the structural integrity of the home was in danger.
Later, it was confirmed that the owner of the house had been moved to a nursing home and there were no fatalities. Kelp expresses, “We were super grateful for that on multiple levels.” However, the cause of the fire was unable to be reported due to the extent of the damage to the house.
Kelp said once the crew returned to the station, they discussed how the reaction time could have been quicker, possibly shaving off 10 valuable minutes, if the departments were paid instead of volunteer based.
The plea for paid fire departments has been a popular request among firefighters around the county for some time now. However, it has never received a response or action by the county, because of the lack of funds and tight budget the county faces. As of right now, it remains an impossibility due to the financial capability of the county.