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Mayday: Trapped firefighters OK as forest fire rages above Laurel Run Park

Jeff Bobo • Nov 8, 2016 at 11:09 PM

CHURCH HILL — Seven firefighters trapped in a forest fire near Laurel Run Park declared “Mayday” Tuesday evening, prompting additional fire and rescue agencies from Hawkins and Sullivan counties to join the rescue effort.

Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell told the Times-News Tuesday night that all seven firefighters had been accounted for, although there were at least two injuries, including one civilian.

The fire was initially reported about 6:30 p.m. on the south side of Bays Mountain above Mountain View Road directly opposite Laurel Run Park, which is on the north side of the mountain.

The civilian who lives off of Mountain View Road reportedly went to see what was happening after the fire started, fell, and had to be carried off the mountain by rescuers.

Murrell said the civilian was unconscious when he was transported to the hospital.

A state Forestry Division worker also suffered a shoulder injury.

There was no information available about how the trapped firefighters were rescued, although Murrell said all were accounted for, and none were injured other than the Forestry Division member.

“The fire got between the firemen and a bluff, and there was nowhere to go,” Murrell said. “They declared a ‘Mayday’ — and when that happens there’s a certain protocol our dispatch follows. That means send everything you’ve got that way.”

Murrell noted that the protocol for a Mayday is for at least two additional departments to respond, as well as one ambulance for every trapped person and a helicopter.

“The initial departments to respond were Goshen Valley, Carters Valley, Forestry. Then they called in Hawkins EMS, Church Hill Rescue Squad and the EMA. When they declared the Mayday, it just opened it up for everybody. I know Bloomingdale came, and they paged Sullivan West and Fall Branch, and Sullivan County also sent ambulances and a helicopter.”                                              

As of 10 p.m., the fire wasn’t contained, but firefighters had called off attempts to battle the blaze for the night due to safety concerns.

They were, however, checking nearby residences and cutting fire lines where necessary.

The concern was that the fire could burn down the north side of the mountain and threaten Lauurel Run Park, or move east and threaten the Holston Army Ammunition Plant.

Efforts to contain the fire are expected to begin at daybreak Wednesday.                                                     

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