They knew it was bad over the weekend and through most of Monday. Residents of Gatlinburg, Sevier County, and surrounding areas had watched wildfires burn all around them. Across several Southern states fires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres this fall.
Then, around 6 P.M. Monday things went from bad to worse as high winds blew embers into town. They rapidly went from worse to nightmare.
A friend of mine in Gatlinburg was at home Monday night. She had watched and photographed the situation all day. Around 8 P.M. firefighters knocked on her door and told her she had to leave immediately. The fire was all around her. She is currently safe in North Carolina, one of more than 14,000 forced to flee at the last minute.
I don’t recall a fire hitting a town like this in my lifetime. Links to a couple of news sites with pictures:
Hundreds of home are gone. Hotels, resorts, schools, churches, cultural centers, tourist attractions, shops, and more are burned to the foundations. Several people are dead, dozens injured. The scenic landscape is changed for a generation.
Rain is falling now in the valleys and firemen and Guardsmen work to contain what remains of the conflagration. Yet the damage done is horrific.
If you’re looking for a charity to donate to this Christmas, consider the people of Gatlinburg. They need help right now and will be grateful for it. And pray for more rain in the South.