Pictured above are HFR firefighters and an HPD officer pouring water on a house fire in Sagee Woods a day after the initial emergency call was made. The fire took multiple days to fully extinguish. Firefighters responded from departments throughout the area including Highlands Fire & Rescue, Cashiers/Glenville, Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain, Cullasaja Gorge, Rabun County Station 8, Macon County Squad 4, Lake Toxaway, and Rosman.
On Saturday, February 4, we had a major structure fire on Sagee Woods Drive.
I was at home and heard fire trucks coming to Highlands from Cashiers, and any time that happens, I know there must be a major fire or rescue situation in the area.
Concerned that we had a major event, I went to the new fire station and saw several parked vehicles of our volunteer firefighters. I stopped and went to the open fire truck bays, and all the trucks were gone except for the large hook and ladder truck, which confirmed my fear of a major event. I would later learn that truck was also to be used in fighting the fire.
The home on fire was a 7,000 square foot structure, and firefighters had their hands full in getting equipment and water to the site by way of a very narrow residential road.
I know some folks have questioned in the past why the fire department has so many trucks, but in a major fire, all that equipment is desperately needed. Other fire departments from Cashiers and Scaly also responded and provided firefighting support to this serious fire event.
The fighting of this fire was a coordinated effort. The fire department called the water plant to inform them of the fire and that huge volumes of water would be needed.
The water plant operators stayed on duty for about 20 hours, ensuring sufficient water would be available for the firefighters.
In fact, the fire department used 250,000 gallons of water on Saturday. As the firefighters continued to put out hotspots throughout Sunday; the final water usage will probably top out near 300,000 gallons.
The operations of the fire department do not end after the fire is put out. There are major reports that have to be done, and an investigation of the cause gets underway immediately.
All the gear firefighters used had to be cleaned in the fire department’s new extractor system. Even all the fire hoses were dried in the new extractor system and then all the equipment had to be repacked and repositioned on the trucks.
In short, this tragic fire underscores the value of our first-rate modern firefighting facility that serves this large Highlands fire district.
Like you, I saw photographs of our firefighter’s manning hoses and on ladders fighting the fire.
One unanticipated event or sudden situational change can put those firefighters in great danger. They need the best equipment and protection that we can provide for the hazardous business that firefighters undertake.
Our next step for the fire department is to go to basic full-time staffing. This fire underscores not only the need for full-time personnel but also the vital need to maintain a full core of volunteer firefighters.
In large fire situations, we need all available firefighters. Their service is essential to the protection of the community.
On behalf of the town, thanks so much for our firefighters.
Read more about the Sagee Woods fire HERE.
The town board meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Highlands Community Center.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor