Trial By Fire


On the morning of November 28, 2016, Sevier County Electric System in Eastern Tennessee had 56,368 customers. By the end of the day 2,402 of those were gone – gone because those homes and buildings had been completely incinerated by a sudden, unexpected surge of wildfires, fueled by 90 MPH wind gusts.

Many stories and articles have been written about the 2016 Great Smoky Mountain wildfires – how they happened and the bravery of the first responders. But not much has been written about the first responders for the first responders: the Sevier County Electric System linemen. Without these men putting themselves in harm’s way — literally going into the depths of a fiery hell — downed power lines laying a cross roads would have prevented emergency crews from getting to the fire, and prevented panicked citizens from getting out. And without these men risking their lives to get electricity running again to critical water pump stations, the firemen wouldn’t have had all the water they needed to prevent the fires from consuming downtown Gatlinburg.

That was the situation on November 28, 2016. A bunch of brave guys who are used to fighting Mother Nature to keep the lights on, were trying to get the job done against all odds. And the office team dispatching them couldn’t see what they were up against and just kept trying to get them to the outages, not realizing we were sending them into harm’s way. All of this was overseen by me, Allen Robbins, General Manager of the electric system who had been on the job for all of four months. I put on a brave face, but I was just as scared as the guys in the field.

For all of us, it was Trial by Fire. This book is our story.


All net proceeds from the sale of Trial by Fire will be donated to charitable organizations that are making a positive impact in Sevier County.   Recipients of the first edition net proceeds for our book are listed below:

United Way $1,000.00
Sevier Co Food Ministries $1,000.00
SMARM $1,000.00
Second Harvest – Food 4 Kids $1,000.00
Gatlinburg Fire Department $1,000.00
Pigeon Forge Fire Department $1,000.00
Sevierville Fire Department $1,000.00
Reboot Smoky Mountains $1,000.00
Catons Chapel Richardson Cove Vol. Fire Dpt $1,000.00
Dr. Robert F Thomas Foundation $1,000.00
English Mountain Volunteer Fire Department $1,000.00
Safe Space $1,000.00
Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department $1,000.00
Wears Valley Volunteer Fire Department $1,000.00
United Way $1,000.00
Safe Harbor $1,000.00
Northview Kodak Volunteer Fire Department $1,000.00
Pittman Center Community Vol. Fire Dept $1,000.00
Sevier Co Food Ministries $2,000.00
Seymour Volunteer Fire Dept $1,000.00
Shop with SWAT Fund Sevierville Police Dept $1,000.00
Safe Harbor $1,000.00
Sevier County Rescue Squad $1,000.00
Isaiah 117 House of Sevier County $1,000.00
Gatlinburg Police Department $1,000.00
Pigeon Forge Police Department $1,000.00
Sevier County Sheriff Department $1,000.00
Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains $1,000.00
Safe Harbor $1,076.24