Great Smoky Mountains National Park Completely Contains Fire Near Chilhowee Lake

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials reported that the wildfire near Chilhowee Lake has now been completely contained.

Firefighters removed damaged trees along Highway 129 to reduce roadside hazards for motorists. Now, Parson Branch Road and Highway 129 are both open to all traffic. 

The perimeter around the 40-acre fire is now secure. Firefighter resources have been reduced to one Type 6 Engine Crew who will continue to monitor the area.

The wildfire was started by a motorcycle’s explosion after a collision.

Officials report the fire originally ignited on Sunday, November 6, when a motorcyclist lost control and collided with the roadside of Highway 129. The driver was thankfully able to safely exit the accident site. Then, their motorcycle erupted, but the scene was already “engulfed in flames” upon collision. NPS photos shared with Outsider show the horrific aftermath, which can be seen here.

The wildfire spanned 40 acres and smoldered on the western boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

However, thanks to the efforts of 60+ wildland firefighters, the wildfire is currently at 100% containment.

Incident Commander Erik Newell coordinated wildland firefighter response to the wildfire, GRSM tells Outsider in their media release.

Rainfall helped firefighters battling the blaze, after 0.25-0.5 inches fell over the last 24 hours. In addition, crews established a hand-dug firebreak line along the perimeter of the fire. It helped prevent fire growth, and it provided protection for GRSM’s backcountry.

To help put out the fire more quickly, crews removed hazard trees along the Highway 129 road corridor of the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Hiker Rescued by TN National Guard Aircrew

A medical flight crew from the Tennessee Army National Guard responded to an emergency air evacuation mission. A hiker in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park area on October 14 was suspected to have broken their leg.

Around 4:20 p.m., the Tennessee Military Department and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency were notified of a hiker needing evacuation. The hiker was located along the Alum Cave Trail, south of Gatlinburg, and required immediate medical attention.

A helicopter from the Tennessee National Guard’s Detachment 1, Company C, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, based in Knoxville, assembled in less than 40 minutes. They launched to the incident site at around 5:00 p.m.

The flight crew consisted of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Trailson Moore, Pilot in Command; 1st Lt. Gavin Huffman, Pilot; Staff Sgt. Donald Sweet, Crew Chief; Col. Robert Ross, Flight Surgeon; Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, Flight Paramedic; and Staff Sgt. Jared Ennis, Flight Paramedic.

At 5:22 p.m., the aircraft arrived at the hiker’s location on Alum Cave Trail. Then, Banta and Ennis were lowered to the ground by hoist.

They then performed a medical assessment on the injured hiker. Once complete, the hiker was medically stabilized, and preparations were made to hoist them into the helicopter. The hiker was then raised up, followed by Banta and Ennis.  

Once onboard, the flight crew continued medical aid while flying to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. The hiker was safely delivered to the hospital after a 12-minute flight.