This was our backyard for the last two days. All of Tennessee has been under extreme drought conditions and a state-wide burn ban.
On Thursday afternoon, a fire started next to the Elementary School in Walland, TN, on the other side of this mountain from us. This picture was taken Friday night as the fire continued to rage. It was frightening, watching our campground backyard burn, waiting to hear if the fire spread our way a little more and we would be evacuated.
This was not the only fire in the state or even our region. But it was the closest one to our home. We spent last night, packed up, with the slides in, ready to drive off at a moment's notice. The campground already looked like a ghost town as many left in the days before.
Why did we not leave? Not because we're adrenaline junkies. But simply, logistics. To get to another campground from here would involve a more than an hour drive. We did not want to uproot ourselves again if we didn't have to. Make no mistake - if the Fire Department had said to evacuate, the rubber would have been burning. But we decided to stick it out and have faith that our firefighters would get it under control.
And they did. We had an hour's hard rain this morning and it was enough for them to be able to contain it. We've watched BlackHawk helicopters fill up and drop down buckets of water for two days now. The haze and the smell of smoke are pervasive and everywhere. My eyes are still burning and my lungs feel as if they have bronchitis.
Driving down the road this morning, I felt an overwhelming sadness to see my beloved mountains charred and bare. I know that fires are nature's way of restarting itself, but this was not nature. This was man. And the hundreds of animals that were displaced because of man's actions will leave a terrible legacy.
To add insult to the injury, residents and emergency workers faced the additional obstacle of rubberneckers. Those people who just have to stop to see tragedy unfold before them. Dozens of cars were just stopped on the roadside and people wandered around, taking pictures, without a thought as to where they were walking and in whose path they would be in. Law Enforcement had to use too many of their resources, getting rid of these rubberneckers who made the paths of the emergency workers treacherous.
This morning, when I headed out to buy groceries, all our local roads were closed - not because of the fire, but because of humans. We had to drive an unnecessary five extra miles to find an open road to go home.
As we sat here, waiting to find out if we needed to drive off, I thought of those residents whose homes were in danger. At least our home has wheels. As of this morning, no homes had been lost. This was evidence on how hard our firefighters have worked to protect us. I feel lucky today.