Man rescued on Bluff Mountain Tuesday
A man started a fire on Bluff Mountain in Sevier County, hoping the flames would help rescue crews find him. He crashed an ATV, and spent several days injured and alone in the woods with no food or water.
The Sevier County Sheriff's Office said the man stranded is identified as 20-year-old Austin Miller.
"I had the best feeling when they, the fire department, showed up. I just want to recognize the Sevier County Fire Department for everything they've done. They're life savers," Miller told WVLT from his hospital bed.
The Sevier County Sheriff's Office said the ATV had been taken from Bluff Mountain Adventures.
Miller said he rolled the ATV several times while on a trail in the mountains.
"I was very scared. I didn't know if I was going to die and never come back," Miller said.
It is unclear whether Miller will face charges.
The desperate attempt to survive created another obstacle for rescue teams. Not only must they find Miller, but they also have to stop the fire that spread 20 acres.
Ed Ledbetter is the Chaplain with Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department. He said the entire scene was dark and smoky.
"The worst part about it was we had a couple of the guys who fought in the middle of the Gatlinburg fire and they were having a little bit of flashbacks," Ledbetter said. "The fire was on a four wheeler trail. So when I mean four wheel trail, it was only like three feet wide."
Ledbetter said at around 12:45 a.m., they were dismissed and the Division of Forestry took over.
"We all came back here. Everyone had left except a four man crew who was stationed here," Ledbetter said. Then, they got a call about a victim on the mountain.
As fire crews got the blaze under control, rescue teams found Miller near his ATV.
"We have a man down. He's been down here for about three or four days. End up, he's the gentleman who set the fire. He set the fire just because he wrecked his four wheeler. He had a broken arm, broken leg, several broken ribs," Ledbetter said. "He said he was cold, his cell phone didn't work."
The effort did not come without a price. A member of the Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Squad was injured by a falling tree. He was taken to UT Hospital, but later released.
"When they start sending the first crew in, I got pretty worried because, considering there's fire around, you don't know if it's going to get better. You don't know if it's going to get worse. You worry about each person that goes up. I was just trying to make sure that in my mind, that my guy and everyone around me, was in a safe spot and make sure everyone was going to be ok in the surroundings," Jacob Godrich, with Sevier County Rescue, said.
The Tennessee Division of Forestry was on Bluff Mountain Tuesday afternoon. They said the fire is out, but they were still checking for hot spots, and will return Wednesday to check again.
"We were out here all night. We got it contained. A few hot spots in stump holes, but most of it we got all out," Gerald Shelton, Forestry Technician of Sevier County, said. "We had a hard time locating this fire because it was two miles and six tenths back from here to it, and we got back there and started putting our lines in and we found a four wheeler that had been turned over. We still didn't have a clue that someone was on the ground and was injured, then we heard someone hollering and one of the firefighters went over and found him."
Pigeon Forge Fire Department, Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Squad, and the Tennessee Division of Forestry were among the crews that helped make this fire and rescue mission a success.