Gatlinburg Fire Highlights Mutual Aid

  • Author | Heather Sturtz
  • 9/14/2023 7:30 am

On Nov. 28, 2016, a small fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park quickly created an out-of-control wildfire emergency for Gatlinburg. The community desperately needed assistance and many Public Entity Partners members answered this call.


Those who responded to the wildfires exemplified the concept of mutual aid. Tennessee statute allows cities to share resources when an “unforeseeable and unpredictable” situation requires resources beyond what is available. When this occurs, one entity is allowed to respond to another without a written agreement. This fire was the very definition of mutual aid.


“That’s the beauty of East Tennessee — the community rallied around us,” said Tony Watson, Fire Chief for the Pigeon Forge Fire Department.


During a ceremony held at Mynatt Park in Gatlinburg on June 9, 2023, officials from the City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County unveiled a memorial and tribute plaza to stand as enduring symbols of remembrance for the 14 people who perished and the first responders who provided aid to these devastated communities.

The memorial includes two separate plazas — one serving as a memorial to those who were lost and one serving as a tribute to the agencies who assisted during and after the disaster.