Local Resident Escapes Gatlinburg Fires

December 3, 2016

A beautiful mountain-view Gatlinburg vacation turned into a horrifying drive for local residentJennifer Ness.

An operator at Gulf Power’s Distribution Operations Center, Ness had to evacuate from the wildfires around Gatlinburg which burned more than 700 buildings and killed at least 11 people earlier this week.

Ness evacuated safely to a nearby hotel and returned home on Tuesday. But she lost all the possessions she had taken except her purse.

“It was definitely a horrific experience,” she said Thursday from her  home. “I feel so heartbroken for the community and the people there. It’s just like going through a hurricane and losing everything they have.”

Ness left Sunday to spend a week’s vacation at Westgate Resort, located between Pidgeon Forge and Gatlinburg, where her parents had a timeshare condo. Her best friend, Kathy, was supposed to go, but had to back out so Ness went on her own.

She had never been to the area before and when she arrived late Sunday afternoon, she was amazed at the view.

“The place was amazingly beautiful,” she said. “The condo was incredible and all around the area, they had decorated for the holidays. I was looking forward to sight-seeing and shopping for Christmas.”

But Monday morning, when she went out on the balcony for a cup of coffee, she noticed the smoke. The view was gone and it was hard to breathe.

Ness texted her timeshare host, who told her there was a fire on Chimney Top, a nearby mountain. She instructed Ness to stay indoors until later that Monday afternoon.

Around 2 p.m., she noticed the view had cleared a little, so she went into town, returned to the condo around 6 p.m. and put on her pajamas to settle down for the evening.

Just an hour later, her host called and told her she needed to evacuate.

“She told me to drive as far away as you can,” Ness said. “She reiterated that I need you to leave now. I didn’t realize the extent of how serious it was.”

She put on her clothes, grabbed her purse and got in her vehicle. All four lanes of traffic had been routed to leave town.

The scene on the road was horrific. Embers from the mountain fire had blown down and ignited trees on both sides of the highway. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper and took Ness 45 minutes to get out of the area.

“You could see the flames on the mountain,” she said. “It was an unbelievable site. It seemed like an eternity to get out.”

While she was driving, she called Kathy, who booked her a hotel room in nearby Sevierville. She checked in and then called her family members to let them know she was OK.

Later in the hotel, she saw news video of the resort burning. All that was left standing was an elevator shaft. All her possessions she had brought were gone, including her clothes, a Nikon camera with a zoom lens and her jewelry, including a Pandora bracelet with 24 charms given to her by her children.

The blazes scorched thousands of acres in the resort-heavy area, burning more than 700 buildings in Sevier County, including about 300 in Gatlinburg alone, and injuring at least 74 people, officials said. Ness was one of more than 14,000 tourists and residents that had to be evacuated.

“All the beauty I drove into and then seeing the fires was unbelievable,” she said. “It wasn’t about grabbing my personal belongings. I was thinking about my children, my grandchildren and my mother and to get out safely. It makes you think about the things that are important to you in your life.”

Ness decided to check out of the hotel Tuesday and return  so the hotel room would be available for a displaced family. She will return to work next week.

“With our job at the DCC, we’re always the first ones to respond,” she said. “To be on the opposite side as an evacuee was a place I would never want to be again. When I arrived there, I was so excited to be there and experience what my parents love so much. Now, I’m glad to be home.”

Northview Presents Christmas Concert (With Gallery, Videos)

December 3, 2016

The annual Northview High School Christmas Concert was held Friday night at the school. The event featured the Northview concert band, beginner guitar class, monologues from the theater class, vocal soloists and the Ernest Ward Middle School band.

Two video highlights are below: the Northview band with “The Polar Express” (top) and Catie Clayton with “The Christmas Song” (bottom).

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos and video, click to enlarge.

Dear Santa: Jim Allen Students Present Christmas Play

December 3, 2016

Students at Jim Allen Elementary School presented their Christmas program “Dear Santa” Friday morning.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Photos by Savanna Calhoun for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

‘Keep The Wreath Green’ Fire Safety Campaign Begins (With Tips List)

December 1, 2016

Escambia County Fire Rescue, in collaboration with the Pensacola Fire Department, will launch its annual “Keep the Wreath Green” fire safety campaign on Thursday, Dec. 1. The campaign is designed to promote fire safety during the month of December, with both departments hoping to reduce the number of fires during this time.

During the month-long campaign, five-foot wreaths will be on display at 18 county fire stations and five city fire stations, with wreaths also placed outside Escambia County’s Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building downtown, the Escambia County Public Safety Building, Pensacola City Hall and Cordova Mall near the food court entrance. Each time firefighters respond to a residential fire with damage, a green light bulb will be replaced with a red one to remind citizens of the dangers posed by fires in residential home.

Escambia County Fire Rescue and the Pensacola Fire Department offer the following holiday safety tips, one for each day of the month:

Dec. 1 - Prior to buying a live tree, test its freshness by pulling along a small branch. If the needles fall away in your hand, the tree is already too dry.

Dec. 2 - Prior to buying an artificial tree, make sure the tree bears a UL label of approval, and be certain the tree is made of fire retardant materials.

Dec. 3 - To keep a live tree fresh, cut 1-2 inches from the bottom to expose fresh wood and place it in water. Make sure your tree stand can hold water. Check the water level every day, and add water as needed. Do not place trees near sources of heat like radiators, space heaters or heating ducts.

Dec. 4 - Use candles with care. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets. Burn candles inside a 1-foot circle of safety, free of anything that can ignite. Use sturdy candle holders that will not tip over. Never leave a burning candle unattended.

Dec. 5 - Make sure all holiday lights are UL labeled and inspect them prior to use. If possible, use LED lights since they burn cooler. Check each set of lights for broken or crushed sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard all damaged lights.

Dec. 6 - When hanging holiday lights either on your tree or outside, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how many strands can be connected together. Usually it is not more than three. Make sure you do not overload electrical outlets or circuits. Do not run power cords underneath rugs or carpets.

Dec. 7 - When decorating, remember not to block stairways, doors or windows. Remember to always unplug lights and extinguish candles before leaving the house or going to bed.

Dec. 8 - Have a plan in case you have a fire: Step one – Design an emergency plan for your home and your family. Make sure everyone understands exactly what to do and where to go in an emergency. Also, make sure you have enough smoke alarms.

Dec. 9 - Have a plan in case you have a fire: Step two – Know two ways out of every room and practice them to make sure you can do it.

Dec. 10 - Have a plan in case you have a fire: Step three – Make sure you crawl low under smoke and feel closed doors for heat. If you come to a door that is warm, find another way out.

Dec. 11 - Have a plan in case you have a fire: Step four – If you become trapped, close doors and stuff the door cracks to keep smoke out. Try to call 911 and let them know exactly where you are, and signal for help from a window.

Dec. 12 - Have a plan in case you have a fire: Step five – Pay special attention to young children, elderly people and the disabled. Be sure to include them in your plan.

Dec. 13 - Have a plan in case you have a fire: Step six – Get out as fast as you can and stay out. Never go back inside. Once you’re safely outside, have someone go to a neighbor’s house and call 911.

Dec. 14 - Remember, matches and lighters are tools for adults. Store them in a safe place out of reach of children. Also, teach youngsters to never touch matches or lighters and instead tell a grownup if they find them.

Dec. 15 - Have a fire extinguisher readily available in your home, and make sure it is fully charged. Know how to use your fire extinguisher. Remember the PASS system:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the trigger lever.
  • Sweep the stream side-to-side at the base of the fire.

Dec. 16 - Have your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional to make sure they are clean and free of obstructions. Never burn paper or trash in the fireplace.

Dec. 17 - Be sure your fireplace is covered with a metal screen or glass doors to prevent the spread of sparks and fire.

Dec. 18 - Make sure to have a working smoke alarm outside of every bedroom and on every level of your house. Make sure to test them monthly and change batteries every time you change your clocks.

Dec. 19 - With children out of school, people doing yard work, dry vegetation, high winds and low humidity, remember that wildfires can happen quickly.

Dec. 20 - If you are enjoying the great outdoors during the holidays, don’t leave campfires or warming fires unattended – make sure they are completely out!

Dec. 21 - Never leave cooking food unattended. Handles on stovetop pots should be turned away from the front, so they won’t be accidentally tipped or knocked over.

Dec. 22 - Before you cook that holiday dinner, be sure that the oven and stovetop are clean, free of grease and are in good working order.

Dec. 23 - Keep cooking areas clean and free of grease and other combustibles (e.g. potholders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging), which can catch fire easily.

Dec. 24 - Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace because of the high flammability, dangerous sparks and possibility of flash fires.

Dec. 25 - Remember to be safety conscious and have a happy holiday.

Dec. 26 - When purchasing a space heater, look for heaters that have safety features such as cut-off switches that turn the heater off if it accidentally tips over or overheats.

Dec. 27 - Space heaters need space. Make sure they are at least 3 feet away from combustible materials such as draperies, furniture, bedding, clothing and decorations. Also teach youngsters to keep away from them.

Dec. 28 - Use only UL labeled space heaters and follow the manufactured instructions. Never use stoves, ovens or other cooking appliances to warm your home.

Dec. 29 - Turn space heaters off when you leave the room. Also, remember to constantly supervise children and pets when space heaters are in use.

Dec. 30 - Don’t cut up and burn your tree in the fireplace. Burning evergreens give off tar and creosol, which can ignite and cause a chimney fire. Dispose of your tree by following the instructions of your local trash disposal service.

Dec. 31 - Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver or call a friend.

Tate High Hosting Souper Bowl And Student Gallery Night

December 1, 2016

Tate High School will host its annual Souper Bowl and Student Gallery Night this Friday night from 5:30 until 7:30.

During the Souper Bowl, handmade ceramic bowls will be on sale for $10 and will come with a bowl of soup or chili and the fixings, plus a drink. There will also be additional ceramic items for sale. Twenty percent of the proceeds will benefit the Pensacola Human Society, with all the rest going to the ceramics program at Tate.

During the concurrent Student Gallery Night, Tate students will be selling their original artwork – including drawings, paintings, photos, prints, ceramics and more.  Organizers say it’s a great opportunity to get a unique holiday gift and perhaps a present for yourself.

For more information, contact Jennifer Rodriguez at (850) 937-2300 ext. 601 for more information.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Century To Officially Light Christmas Tree Thursday Evening

November 30, 2016

Century will hold an official Christmas tree lighting ceremony  Thursday at 5 p.m.  The short ceremony will take place in the Nadine McCaw Park located on North Century Boulevard at Hecker Street. Children from Byrneville Elementary School will perform Christmas songs during the event. Pictured: Century’s Christmas Tree in Nadine McCaw Park on North Century Boulevard as seen Tuesday night. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Santa To Visit The Century And Molino Branch Libraries

November 28, 2016

Mark your calendar…Santa Claus is coming to the Century and Molino branches of the West Florida Library.

Santa will be at the Century Branch Library this Thursday, December 1 at 6 p.m. Children can enjoy stories, Santa and a little holiday spirit. Parents are encouraged to bring a camera for photos with Santa.

Santa will visit the Molino Branch Library on Tuesday, December 6 at 6 p.m. for a special Pajama Story Time with Santa. Children invited to wear their comfy, cozy pajamas, brink a blanket and join the library staff for a stories, milk and cookies along with a very special visit from Santa Claus. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras.

Pictured: Santa visits the Century Branch Library last year. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Student Athletes Honored At FCA Banquet

November 28, 2016

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Go the Distance” Awards were presented recently at a banquet hosted by the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

Athletes from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were honored for their participation in cross country, golf, swimming and volleyball.

Honored were:

Catholic Cross Country – Grant Kemp
Catholic Cross Country – Tori Toellner
Catholic Golf – Madelyn Demitroff
Catholic Golf – AJ Panyko
Catholic Swimming – Blakey Baker
Catholic Swimming – Ryan Dockery
Catholic Volleyball – Kiley Brady
East Hill Christian Cross Country – Will Philips
East Hill Christian Volleyball – Kaylie Dickson
East Hill Cross Country – Ella Griffith
Escambia Golf – Jason Bryant
Escambia Volleyball – Angela Harvey
Gulf Breeze Cross Country – Shelby Dunne
Gulf Breeze Cross Country – Mason Youberg
Gulf Breeze Golf – Desirae Kane
Gulf Breeze Golf – Brian Richards
Gulf Breeze Swimming – Whitney Speck
Gulf Breeze Swimming – Nik Bindi
Gulf Breeze Volleyball – Olivia Hepworth
Jay Cross Country – Grace Gillman
Jay Cross Country – Jimmie Ates
Pine Forest Golf – Daniel Taylor Limerick
Milton Cross Country – Brett Kaniper
Milton Cross Country – Becky Ward
Milton Golf – Beau Martin
Milton Golf – Megan Robertson
Milton Swimming – Andrew Simmons
Milton Swimming – Amber Gilley
Milton Volleyball – Mallory Bramel
Navarre Golf – Sultana Pohlmann
Navarre Swimming – Zach Sutton
Navarre Swimming – Killian Casey
Northview Cross Country – Adrian King
Northview Cross Country – Lexxi Baggett
Northview Volleyball – Brittanie McLemore
Pace Cross Country – Ceanna Martin
Pace Golf – Katrina Boteler
Pace Swimming – Richard Fisher
Pace Swimming – Zoe Hall
Pace Volleyball – Morgan Helton
Pensacola High Cross Country – Cody Wolfe
Pensacola High Cross Country – Patricia “TK” McAuley
Pensacola High Golf – Jack Myslak
Pensacola High Golf – Ashley Burroughs
Pensacola High Swimming – Allison Spradlin
Pensacola High Swimming – Jawone Blankenship
Pensacola High Volleyball – Ra’kell Watts
Pine Forest Golf – Rachel Rudd
Pine Forest Swimming – Clark Dunham
PSC Volleyball – Allison Von Brock
Tate Cross Country – Seth Godwin
Tate Cross Country – Hannah Wellenkamp
Tate Golf – Kaylee Jackson
Tate Swimming – Patrick Thorton
Tate Swimming – Olivia Gardner
UWF Cross Country – Kim Napoleon
UWF Cross Country – Micah Kemp
UWF Swimming – Karisa Kostecki
UWF Volleyball – Holly Mattmuller
Washington Cross Country – Jasiana Edwards
Washington Cross Country – Daniel Holzknecht
Washington Golf – Darcy Prendergast
Washington Golf – Peter Calogero
Washington Volleyball – Ally Blankenship
West Florida Cross Country – Rory Carmody
West Florida Cross Country – Mallory Mott
West Florida Golf – Madelyn Lathan
West Florida Golf – Ty Aulger
West Florida High Swimming – Janeese Faircloth
West Florida Swimming – Christian Marvin
West Florida Volleyball – Harmoni Burton

Pictured top: Northview FCA award winners (L-R) Lexxi Baggett, Adrian King and Brittanie McLemore. Pictured below: Northview banquet attendees. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Downtown Comes Alive With Santa, Elf Parade And 400,000 Lights

November 26, 2016

Friday night was a very festive evening in downtown Pensacola. The night started with Santa and the Pensacola Elf Parade and ended with the lighting ceremony for the downtown lights.  Over 400,000 white lights are up in the Palafox Street area, illuminating historic buildings, parks, shops, galleries and outdoor spaces.

For more photos, click here.

Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Two Northview Cheerleaders March In Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

November 25, 2016

Two Northview High School cheerleaders — Peighton Dortch (pictured left) and Morgan Myrick — marched in the 90th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday. They are pictured (left) in their parade uniforms and on the set of Good Morning America (top). Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

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