Chattanooga firefighters drive 150 miles to answer Gatlinburg's call for aid as blaze rages

Fire erupts on both side of Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. In Gatlinburg, smoke and fire caused the mandatory evacuation of downtown and surrounding areas, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. (Jessica Tezak/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Devastating Gatlinburg fires

Firefighters in the Chattanooga area drove 150 miles with their sirens blaring Monday night to fight the massive fires in Gatlinburg after firefighters there made a rare call for aid, authorities said.

At least 50 firefighters from at 10 agencies the Chattanooga region are either fighting the fire or on their way today, the agencies told the Times Free Press.

"This is really rather extraordinary for fire departments this far from the actual location of the fire to be called out," said Bruce Garner, Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman.

Chattanooga sent crews on an engine and tanker truck to fight the fire, Garner said. A total of 12 firefighters from the city went out, Garner said. One crew traveled last night while a relief crew is headed there today.

The first crew to arrive did some firefighting last night, took a three-hour break, and went back out today, Garner said.

At least five other area agencies sent firefighters to Gatlinburg, Garner said, including from Bradley County, Decatur, Meigs County, Tri-Community, Englewood and Cleveland.

Engines, crews and tankers are also being sent from East Ridge, Soddy-Daisy, Dunlap, Sequoyah and Walden Ridge, according to the Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association.

East Ridge Fire Chief Mike Williams said his crew is on the way today.

"We're expecting a worst case scenario," he said.

Garner said at least 100 cabins in Gatlinburg and a number of commercial buildings are either burning or destroyed. About 14,000 people have been evacuated from the city.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says hundreds of firefighters as well as local and state personnel and National Guard troops have been sent in to help fight the blaze and check on people.

The fire spread rapidly because of high winds, Garner said.

"It started as a single brush or woods fire and then the high winds picked up and carried embers far and wide an the fire spread exponentially," he said. "All over the place, all at once."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.