GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WDTN) – A popular destination for Miami Valley residents is shut down by a series of fatal wildfires. The Tennessee Governor confirmed late Tuesday, 3 people have died in Gatlinburg as a result of the fires.
It’s been an intense 24 hours for roughly 14,000 residents and tourists who had to be evacuated from there — some of them are from right here in the Miami Valley.
Within 24 hours, hundreds of buildings were destroyed in and around the resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Some people have described the ash falling like snow and the smoke so thick that it’s difficult for drivers to see.
Waynesville resident Jennifer Johnsen–who’s traveling with her six children–evacuated her cabin Monday which is just outside Gatlinburg.
She was let back in Tuesday. Although still a little shaken up, she spoke about the moment her cabin starting filling with smoke.
“We definitely had a moment of panic until we knew we could get out of here,” Johnsen said. “At about 8 o’clock our Shalay started filling with smoke. And we walked out on the deck and there was flames coming over the mountains so we grabbed the kids and got in the car and drove to Knoxville.”
Johnsen and her family are safe and plan on returning to Gatlinburg Wednesday. The Gaitlinburg Fire Chief says there could be more fatalities — because they haven’t been able to search all of the impacted areas just yet.