Roan Mountain 'pounded' during otherwise quiet Halloween

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF

   Once in a blue moon, law enforcement has a quiet Halloween. This was the year for both -- a blue moon and a relatively quiet holiday, crimewise.
   Carter County Sheriff John Henson said this Halloween was "quieter than usual" in the county. Elizabethton Police Department also saw little activity.
   Not only were city and county officers working the road Wednesday night, but constables from the area, reserve deputies and Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers also were out in force to hold down the trickery.
   According to the sheriff, there were a few brush fires, including "one pretty good one. Usually you have nothing but fires. The good thing is we didn't have a structure fire, a barn fire or anything.
   "The only thing we did have, which I would say was very light, was in Zone 2 (Roan Mountain area), and that's where we made the most arrests. We arrested five people for minor things," the sheriff said.
   But even Zone 2 was quieter than usual this year.
   "The rest of the county had nothing," Henson said.
   Officers did share in one tense moment around 11:30 p.m. on Buck Mountain Road when Deputy Todd Hamm and Deputy Mike Commons observed William Johnson, 33, 246 Buck Mountain Road, standing beside the roadway near Doc Fields Road and stopped to question him due to the number of fires in the area.
   As the officers drove closer to Johnson's location, he ran into a driveway and hid behind a utility pole, according to Deputy Hamm.
   When the officer stopped the patrol car Johnson got up and ran up the driveway. Deputy Hamm gave chase and yelled several times for Johnson to stop, however, he did not respond and, instead, continued up the driveway.
   As Deputy Hamm closed in, he saw that Johnson was carrying a shotgun. The officer drew his service revolver and yelled for Johnson to drop his weapon. Johnson turned to face the officer at a distance of about 25 yards, holding a camouflage shotgun in a low-ready position, according to the officer.
   Deputy Hamm pointed his revolver at Johnson and again told him to drop his weapon. Johnson racked the shotgun.
   Believing Johnson was going to fire on him, the officer fired two rounds at Johnson, both missing him. Johnson dropped the gun and lay on the ground as instructed. He was handcuffed and transported to Carter County Jail.
   Johnson was charged with public intoxication, evading arrest, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm while intoxicated.
   In Hampton, Halloween night was basically uneventful for the Hampton/Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department, according to Capt. Ed McNeil.
   "We had a couple of tire fires and that was about it. We didn't have a hay fire, a leaf fire or nothing. We had a couple of trees cut down," McNeil said. Those were quickly removed by fire department volunteers armed with chainsaws.
   "Roan Mountain was who they pounded last night," Capt. McNeil said Thursday evening.
   Roan Mountain Fire Chief Terry Ray Proffitt said volunteers responded to 14 fires Wednesday night in his district alone.
   "We had a long night," Proffitt said. "The first call came in at just a little after 7:30 p.m. They (fire crews) went out the last time at 4:50 a.m."
   The worst damage occurred off Miller Road on Buck Mountain, Proffitt said, where up to 100 acres were destroyed.
   "The forest service did most of the firefighting on that one. They asked us to pull back and let them handle the fire, and we pulled back to protect the structures," Proffitt said.
   "It burned within about 40 yards of a house. There was an old log road there and it pretty much burned to it and stopped. We were sitting there, just waiting, and then the forest service came through and made their dozer ring and went on about their way. We got lucky," he said.
   The fire department responded to tire fires on Tiger Creek and Buck Mountain, two minor ones in the town of Roan Mountain, two on Railroad Grade at the same time in two different places, one on Old Buck Mountain Road and a grass fire on Hampton Creek.
   "We had four of them going at the same time," Proffitt said. "We had every truck we had out. Stoney Creek was nice enough to send a tanker to help us out and we were calling in Avery County to help because we were getting swamped there for awhile," he said.
   The fire department also responded to another fire Thursday evening, according to Proffitt, "but it was accidental. A man was burning something off and it got away from him."
   Chief Proffitt said burn permits are now required for outdoor burning.
   "If it stays as dry as it is, I look for them to cease any outdoor burning. I've not heard them say anything about it, but they probably will -- which, they need to.
   "We sprayed 1,000 gallons (of water) on one section last night and I walked through right after that and it was still crunchy (under foot)," he said.