Firefighters from All Over the Country Call This the ‘Most Hospitable’ Small Town They’ve Ever Served

The government sent Hotshots, an elite team of firefighters, to fight wildfires raging near Hayesville, NC. The community’s outpouring of gratitude sent tears to their eyes.

fireOndrej Prosicky/ShutterstockWith at least a dozen wildfires raging through western North Carolina in the fall of 2016, it would take more than one local fire department to fight the flames, according to WITN. In early November, the federal government sent over a team of elite firefighters from the Interagency Hotshot Crews.

Most of the Hotshots stayed at Hinton Rural Life Center, a Christian retreat center in Hayesville, North Carolina. The center reached out to the media and community groups hoping to get four volunteers per day to help things run smoothly for their firefighting guests. They didn’t expect a response quite so incredible.

Within two days, more than 200 people—about two thirds of the town’s population of just over 300—reached out to offer help, according to the center’s website. Meals and lodging were already being taken care of, so they went above and beyond the basics. Community members donated more than 1,000 items, including sports drinks, snacks, lip balm, eye drops to help ease the firefighters’ tough days on the job. “Meanwhile the bigger town I moved from, Asheville, was begging the citizens to donate and help out the firefighters there,” writes Kayla Stephens in a 2017 entry for Reader’s Digest’s Nicest Place in America contest.

Even the kids in Hayesville got involved, sending thank-you cards, pictures, and signs to motivate the Hotshots. The team received more than 2,000 thank-you notes. After the fires were put out and the firefighters were preparing to go home, the town threw a parade to thank them and wish them well.

The firefighters were so overwhelmed by the generosity from Hayesville that they put together their own thank-you in a YouTube video.

“You guys do not know how much you mean, all the support you guys give us,” says Ron, a firefighter from Oregon, in the video. “Out of four years that I’ve been fighting fire, this is about the most hospitable state and county that I’ve ever been in.”

“I don’t think any of us have ever felt so welcome, and especially since so much devastation is going on in your town and still be pouring so much love out,” says Oregon firefighter Alexander in the video. “It actually brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.”

Do you live in a place where people go the extra mile to help one another? Help us in our search for Nicest Place in America by nominating it today! If chosen, it will appear on an upcoming cover of Reader’s Digest!

Popular Videos

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.