The Gatlinburg Volunteer Fire Department was formed on September 16, 1946. The city's first fire department was all volunteer and headed up by Ralph "Doc" Shilling, Gatlinburg's resident doctor. In 1946, the department responded to eight calls. The department now responds to over 3,000 calls per year.


Some of Gatlinburg's earliest rescue vehicles included a brush truck, a rescue truck, a tanker and an engine. The last two trucks on the right were bought from the Fountain City Fire Department.

In 1969, a paid department was formed. There were two stations with eight personnel. The first fire truck was an army surplus Ford flat bed that had a front mounted pump. Currently, the department has thirty-eight paid personnel, 22 part-time paid personnel and thirteen volunteer personnel.


The city's first ambulance was a Suburban Panel Truck with an army cot. In 1972, a citizen worked with the mayor to get the fire department it's first top of the line ambulance which was a Suburban High-top along with the first portable defibrillator in the State of Tennessee. Today the department has 3 Class A fire apparatus, three rescue apparatus, two tankers, two reserve fire apparatus, a 104' aerial apparatus, a wildland fire apparatus, a technical rescue response vehicle, a support truck, a hazardous materials response trailer and an ATV (all terrain vehicle). Gatlinburg's fire response area is 238 square miles that covers a great portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Gatlinburg's most memorable fires over the years are:

  • A brush fire in 2000 on Lower Alpine Road which destroyed two homes during a windstorm
  • A brush fire in 1993 and 1994 on Ski Mountain that destroyed a home and threatened other homes and condominiums
  • A 1992 fire that destroyed several businesses along with the Rebel Corner building at the corner of Parkway and Airport Road that garnered national media attention
  • A 1980 fire that wiped out the Gatlinburg office of the Mountain Press