HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – For his Eagle Scout project, Seth Whitehead decided to create a new memorial for the four firefighters who lost their lives fighting a wildfire on Jenkins Mountain in 1954.

A memorial dedication service was held at the Hampton-Valley Forge Fire Department on Saturday. Family members of the fallen firefighters were present at the dedication.

Whitehead is in Boy Scout Troop 516 out of Elizabethton, Tennessee. He said he first began doing research on this project two years ago. His dad and his dad’s friend told him about the tragedy.

Photo: WJHL

“I never knew about this,” said Whitehead. “I’m a big history buff, so I got into it and there’s like no information. So, I brought up all the information that I could and put the puzzle together and now I have this amazing memorial that I’m very proud of. I’m very proud that I reached out to the family, and the families were very happy.”

Members of Boy Scout Troop 516, the Hampton-Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department and the Tennessee Division of Forestry helped Whitehead construct the memorial.

Three of the firefighters who died were 19, and one was 15 years old. The 15-year-old, Robert Simerly, was sent to fight the fire by his dad who was sick at the time. Whitehead says he wants the legacy of these firefighters to live on forever.

“Even in this day and age, how would you think of sending your 15-year-old up there, but times were different back then,” said Whitehead. “I don’t want these people who sacrificed their lives to help the community of Hampton just to be forgotten in the dust, and hundreds of years later they’re just somewhere in a textbook storing dust in a library somewhere.”

Catherine Nave Milam & Karen Nave Crowe; first cousins of Kenneth Pierce.

“We’re just thrilled at the thought that he will always be remembered,” said Catherine Nave Milam, first cousin of one of the fallen firefighters, Kenneth Pierce. “Now, it took a long time to get that, but finally we have it and we’re just very happy.”

Milam says that Pierce’s family moved to Maryland after the tragedy. She says that another family member also tried to get a memorial created.

“His name was Kenneth Howard Nave, and he had tried to get a memorial done for years by the city and county to honor the young men who died and gave their lives.”

After the memorial dedication, Whitehead received the highest ranking in scouting. He is now officially an Eagle Scout.

Scout master Cindy Odom-Higgins said she knew that the Jenkins Mountain Memorial was exactly what Seth needed to do when he presented the project.

“Seth is a history nut and he loves everything history involved,” says Odom-Higgins. “This was going to incorporate his love of history and do something for the community. And definitely to get Troop 516 out in the community and to incorporate our boys in service projects and so forth and definitely be something that could be a memorial for those in years to come.”

Whitehead has also joined the Hampton / Valley Forge Fire Department as a junior member. He says he’s already been on a few calls.

To see completed photos and progress of the memorial being built, you can look at the memorial’s Facebook page.