Brittney Burns — Commentary

The fires in and around Macon County continue to blaze this morning. The acres being consumed by flames seemingly doubled overnight, while the percentage of containment dwindles. Hundreds of men and women have flocked to our mountains from all over the country to help fight these fires.

There are 20 active wildfires the last time I checked, and they are burning over 10,000 acres of forest lands. The United States Forest Service, along with our local volunteer departments have more than 600 men and women tracking up and down the mountains, which are dryer than ever before, trying their hardest to keep the flames away from our homes. When they think they have it contained, 20 MPH winds help the fire jump dozer lines and consume more of our forests.

The firefighters saved my mom’s house. She was evacuated out of her Dillsboro home when the Dick’s Creek blaze came knocking on her door. Firefighters sprang to action, dug trenches around her house and set up a truck to protect her home. They saved it.

While our children can’t play outside because of the smoke, while the sun is hazy and the moon burns a bright orange in the wake of the flames, there is good to be seen in all of this.

The good comes in how our community has shown immense gratitude to these complete strangers who are just doing their jobs. The good comes in the mountains of donations being poured into local departments and at the various command centers every day. The good comes when in Macon County, they have gotten so many donations, that they forest service hasn’t needed to use their own resources for food and water, because they are literally getting donations around every corner.

In Clay County, Stephen, the Operations Chief over the entire Boteler fire said that he can’t pull up to work in the morning without someone waiting to hand him fresh baked banana bread. When his team goes to local businesses like Ingles to update them on the fire, they can’t get out of the door without a couple of boxes of donuts.

We don’t know most of these people. They are from 16 different states across the country. When they are done, they will go home, or go to the next job. But that doesn’t stop our community from going above and beyond to do whatever we can to help. I see posts on Facebook each morning updating the community of these firefighters’ newest needs. Lotions, chapsticks, candy, proteins. And by the end of the day, they forest service will no longer need those things and will have enough supplies to last for weeks.

And the firefighters are taking note of our community’s kindness. On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to spend the morning with Congressman Mark Meadows in Clay and Macon counties meeting with the officials on the ground as well as meeting the men and women who have spent countless hours in the woods fighting for us. Every hand we shook to say thank you, was eager and excited to thank us right back for the support and encouragement of this community. Everywhere we went and everyone we met was quick to comment about the mountains of donations, the letters from students, the care packages from churches. They said in all of their years fighting fires, in all of the places they have travelled, they have never seen anything like the love they have seen here in Western North Carolina.

Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Isn’t that something to be so incredibly proud of? I am fortunate to have these opportunities, to see these things and hear these things from people because of my job, so while the news article I wrote covered the logistics of the fire, I wanted to be sure to tell this story as well, because to me it is just as important, if not more so.

We live in the greatest place in this country and you all, our friends and neighbors who call WNC home, are the greatest people in this country, and I truly, with ever fiber of my being believe that. I couldn’t have been prouder to hear the forest service sing our community’s praises on Wednesday and hopefully this will help spread that joy and pride with all of you, who deserve to hear how wonderful you are.