Volunteers work overnight to feed firefighters

11:09 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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Firefighters worked overtime to put out Pigeon Forge's damaging fire that destroyed nearly 60 cabins. But community volunteers also went without sleep to make sure those firefighters were well taken care of.

"I watched five cabins catch on fire in less than 30 minutes," said Shelia Valentine, a volunteer first responder with Walden Creek Volunteer Fire Department and Sevier County Rescue Squad.

Those devastating images sent Valentine and others into action.

"Anytime there's a disaster we have to pull together," said Danette Rolen, a volunteer with Sevier County Rescue Squad.

Even though Valentine and Rolen couldn't be out on the front lines, they didn't waste any time finding a way to help.

They started making phone calls Sunday evening and it wasn't long before they set up a command center at Calvary Baptist Church.

"We stayed all night. Started taking in donations about 7:30 a.m. and they have been coming in all day long," Rolen said.

"The restaurants, the grocery stores, if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have enough to feed these firefighters," said Valentine.

The command center served dozens of firefighters and displaced fire victims. By the end of the day Monday, the firefighters were able to come inside the church have a hot meal. But overnight, that wasn't an option.

The volunteers and others made more than 12 trips up into the dangerous fire zone to take them food and water.

"It makes it really nice to have food and drinks coming to you on a regular basis," said Pigeon Forge Firefighter, Matt Lovitt.

Like the firefighters they served, the volunteers didn't take many breaks. Rolen worked the command center for more than 24 hours with no sleep.

But now with the fire contained and the firefighters fed, she too is going to take it easy.

"I'm going to go home and get some rest," she said.

The Pigeon Forge community was so generous that they have plenty of leftover food and water. All of it will be donated to area emergency services.

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