‘Desperate’ man trapped for days under crashed ATV sets fire to call help, chief says

WVLT Broadcast / Screenshot

A night-time brush fire drew firefighters to rural Sevier County, Tenn., Monday night, where they were surprised to discovered the blaze had been intentionally set by an injured man hoping it would bring rescuers to his location, Walden Creek Fire Chief Tim Baker said, according to WVLT.

The man, whose identity has not been released, told rescuers he had been trapped on Bluff Mountain for three days after his all-terrain vehicle crashed, according to the station.

Baker said that under those circumstances, “you do desperate things,” according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Nobody was gonna wander through and find him.”

It took crews three hours to reach the stranded man, whom they found suffering from hypothermia, a broken ankle and broken ribs, according to The Associated Press.

Baker said forest officials took a bulldozer and cut a firebreak around the brush fire to stop it from spreading, and that’s when they discovered the man who had wrecked the ATV, WATE reported.

“Because it’s so rough of a terrain it was tough getting someone in there to get him out. Then to carry him was awful,” forestry division technician Gerald Shelton said, according to WBIR.

“He allegedly had started the fire so that someone would find him. He had no communications otherwise ... (he was) conscious and alert,” Baker said, according to WATE. Officials got him to an air ambulance and took him to the hospital, according to the station.

News of the fire prompted worry from some on social media, as the flames burned toward some of the same areas affected by the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires that torched parts of the state, affecting major cities like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

“Dear God not again,” one person wrote on Facebook. Another said, “No no no...this can’t be happening!” and another called for people to “join in prayer that this fire is soon contained in the Smokies.”

During wildfires Monday night, many buildings in Gatlinburg, Tennessee were burned to their foundation. The fire destroyed at least 150 buildings and killed 3 people. Resident Gregory Pelc had to flee his home to a makeshift shelter and described

Officials said they had the fire, about 20 acres across, under control by Tuesday morning, saying weather conditions had kept the flames from spreading, according to The Associated Press.

One other man was injured in the rescue after a tree branch fell and struck him in the back, Baker said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. He was taken to the hospital.

It’s a real treacherous, steep area,” Baker said, according to the paper. “So we had two people to rescue, not one.”