The wildfires that broke out on Nov. 28th caused the death of 14 people and the destruction and damage of over 2,000 homes and local businesses.
National park service rangers Ryan Williamson and Andrew Herrington are two men who who risked their lives to save others as the fires spread across the community.
Earlier this month in an interview with a local news outlet, Williamson explained that he first spotted and heard the flames when the fires hit propane tanks outside his residence on the Spur. The loud sound of “Boom! Boom!…like bombs going off” was startling, Herrington added.
Both men are responsible for overseeing the land between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. But on that day, they went above and beyond their job description by using their self-described ‘country boy skills’ and chainsaws to make sure people could escape fire.
Williamson told reporters that without their help, “many people would have burned to death,” The whole area was engulfed in flames and “It looked like the end of the world,” Herrington continued.
Both men had planned on evacuating when the fires broke out, and when they finished packing up their truck they hit a long vehicle line. Shortly into the wait, the two rangers spotted a fallen pine tree blocking the road, so they got out of the vehicle and cut the tree so people could pass.
Even after the tree was removed it wasn’t that easy for the other cars to get by, because some locals had already gotten out of their cars. The men had to encourage them to get back in their vehicles so people get out.
After that, the men went on to the next tree and group of people that needed help, and by the end of what turned into a very long night, they had saved hundreds of lives.
Herrington explained that he just felt grateful to be able to do it, noting that he had just finished up a forestry class, so “I had two chainsaws with me: my personal chainsaw and my work one,” he said. “I don’t ride around with two chainsaws every day.”
Without having two chainsaws, they wouldn’t have been able to help as many people as quickly as they did.
“What are the odds?” he asked.
Their heroic deeds have not gone unnoticed. Both men were honored by the Tennessee Chapter of the Wildlife Society with the newly established Tennessee Conservation Hero.
Park Superintendent Cassius Cash, in a note to the Wildlife Society, wrote: “Williamson and Herrington’s actions were instrumental in the evacuation of hundreds of people on that dreadful, historic night. We are honored to have such dedicated, experienced and courageous employees working for us and serving the American public. They are true heroes and very deserving of receiving accolades for their actions on November 28.”
10 other employees who worked to remove trees from other roadways were also honored.
Williamson humbly noted that they don’t see themselves as heroes. They were just in the “Right place. Right time.” and had the “Right skill set.”
Adding that, “We were just two people doing the chainsaw work.”
(H/T: Knoxville News Sentinel)
Other Must-Read Stories: