Female Firefighters Return Home to Winston-Salem After Battling WNC Wildfires

Two Triad Firefighters Return Home

WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- There's a story behind every firefighter's mission battling the wildfires in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Trying to control the wildfires is a grueling, non-stop job.

Many of the Triad’s local firefighters have been there for weeks.

So when they finally come home, you'd think they would want to just relax and take it easy for a while.

But for Hannah Johnson and Taylor Whitmire, it's the exact opposite.

"I'm ready to go! Anything they need, Tennessee, North Carolina, I'm ready to go,” said Whitmire. “I fell in love with fighting fire. It's my passion and that's what I want to do!"

Whitmire and Johnson just got home to Winston-Salem after three weeks of fighting wildfires in the mountains!

They even spent their Thanksgiving there!

“It was emotional. It tests your limits for sure,” said Whitmire. “But it's what we do. It's what we signed up for and I wouldn't change anything.”

Johnson has experience.

She's been a firefighter for 10 years!

“I've just always liked it. It's part of who I am now,” said Johnson. “It's my career and I wouldn't change it for anything.”

But going to the mountains to fight wildfires was a brand new experience for Whitmire!

It was her first dispatch!

“I'm hooked! I'm hooked! This is what I want to do,” said Whitmire. “This is what I've wanted to do since I was a little girl.”

It was also a personal mission for Whitmire.

“It was my stomping grounds,” she said. “I knew every road we went down.”

She was dispatched to Transylvania County, which is the same place where she grew up as a child!

“You are not only protecting the land you grew up. You are also protecting your friends and your family and your community,” said Whitmire.

They just got back last week after spending 21 and 23 days out there, respectively.

But Johnson and Whitmire are already itching to get back and help more people!

“On the fire line, there is no woman and there is no man. We are all firefighters,” said Whitmire. “At that point, that's just what we are.”

“Every piece is vital,” said Johnson. “There is no one piece more important than the other. It's all part of the puzzle.”

Johnson and Whitmire worked together on pro-active measures, trying to contain the fire and protect homes and structures.

Both women said the hardest part about their mission was being away from family over Thanksgiving.

But Whitmire says her mother actually came up and offered to do all the crews' laundry.
So they really, really appreciated her for doing that.

The Gatlinburg, TN fires have damaged more than 700 structures and claimed at least seven lives.

In North Carolina, officials say the Party Rock Fire near Lake Lure is 100 percent contained.

(© 2016 WFMY)


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