City officials urging tourists to return to Gatlinburg

City officials urging tourists to return to Gatlinburg (WKRC)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRC) - Many stories of loss and destruction came after wildfires tore through the Gatlinburg area.

A local man who spent many weekends there was stranded by the flames. He will soon get a chance to reunite with the man who helped him get out.

Exactly three months ago the fire on Chimney Tops in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had a sudden burst of fuel from wind gusts measured as high as 87 mph. It carried embers miles from the park into the city limits of Gatlinburg, which in turn sparked new fires and within the span of an hour or two. Families waiting for months to finally relax in their vacation homes were fighting to get out of them.

Jeffrey Snider was visiting from Amelia, Ohio, "I stayed in the convention center, you know they had a shelter set up so I stayed there the first night and got another condo the second night. But yeah it was terrible. It was like you were in hell. I mean there is fires all around, everywhere, it was terrible."

A local got Jeffrey out with no time to spare. His vacation home was gone, there was nothing left. But it was not stopping him from coming back and that was exactly what city officials like Cindy Ogle wanted to hear, even while dealing with the loss of her own home.

City Manager Ogle said, "You have to say, 'OK, this is what I've committed myself to and this is what I'm going to continue to be committed to and just move forth and do the work that's necessary,' because there's a lot of work to do."

A lot of work had already been done. In fact, 50-60% of burned down locations have demolition permits.

"As to rebuilds, we're probably up to 50 rebuild permits. And those numbers may not sound like a lot, but as you said Brandon at the beginning, it's only been three months. It's only been 90 days," said Ogle.

William Christy was visiting from Ohio and said, "If you look at the highway coming down on the side you see nothing but new grass coming up. You can clearly tell where they were but everything seems to be coming along real smooth."

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