Former Fire Management Officer fought off the Chimney Tops 2 Fire, saving his home

It had been a year since David Loveland retired as Fire Management Officer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On November 28, 2016 when the Chimney Tops 2 Fire burned from the park into Gatlinburg, he had been living in his home for 10 years. His goal had been to reduce the vegetation, the fuel, on the entire three acres to make it as fire resistant as possible.

When the fire approached the property between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg the clearing project was not complete, but the work he had done combined with his efforts as the fire burned around the structure meant he still had a place to live when the smoke finally cleared.

He tried to evacuate but the road was blocked by a tree that fell during the strong winds. He and his wife returned to the house and fought off the fire with a battery powered leaf blower and used a hose until the loss of power shut down the water system. His experience fighting fires in Yosemite National Park and other areas out west was in the back of his mind as he labored in the smoke.

His story was documented in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Below is a brief excerpt.

…Homes dotting the top of the ridge were soon ablaze. Other residences below them were also on fire. Smoke was everywhere.

More problems. A tree limb fell over the power lines, knocking out electricity to the home and plunging the interior into darkness. The smoke detectors were going bonkers, adding to the overall chaos as Kathaleen Loveland raced about the home trying to get important items and documents together.

“I had a backup generator, but I had a problem with it that I didn’t know about until then,” David Loveland said. “I had only the water pressure that was left in the hose, and I needed that to protect the propane tank.”

That left Loveland with a leaf blower with three batteries, a hoe and a nearly powerless water hose. But, he had also prepared…

About 20 homes in Mr. Loveland’s neighborhood were destroyed. His was one of four that survived.

The fire continued to spread, killing 14 people, burning 2,013 homes and 53 commercial structures, and causing more than $500 million in damage.

For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged “Chimney 2 Fire”.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.