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Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Smokies After the Fire

Doug and I got away for a few days last week to visit our beloved Smoky Mountains. We'd been wanting to get down there ever since the wildfires had raged through the area in late November, 2016; but this was the first opportunity we'd had to do it.

During the time since the fires, much had been done to deal with the damage and destruction. Some 2400 structures had been damaged or destroyed in and around Gatlinburg. Most of that debris had been removed, at least in the areas we saw. But we stayed away from some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

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The above photo, taken from the Gatlinburg overlook, shows the scorched trees in the foreground.


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The Park Vista Hotel, the tall, round hotel in the photo above, was surrounded by the fires. The blackened area in front of the hotel shows how close the flames were on that side of the building. A little below the Hotel, about the middle of the photo, there are several burned-out structures visible.


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Crews had sprayed a mixture of fertilizer and grass seed along the burned areas next to the roadways in the national park, resulting in lush green grass growing close to the road. But, a look above the green reveals some of the burned area.


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We've often stopped at the overlook from which the above photo was taken, but we'd never seen the river at the bottom of the hill before. The fires had burned away much of the ground vegetation. You can also see a blackened strip coming down the ridge of the mountain on the right.

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The photo above shows what's left of the Smoky Mountain Castle, situated high on a mountain, overlooking Gatlinburg. To see pictures of the Castle before the fire, click here. A bit of the Castle's history can be found here.

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Above are two views of one home's burned-out foundation.


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Two more burned-out homes

The fire started in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Chimney Tops, a popular hiking destination. On November 28, 2016, winds approaching 90 miles per hour swept the fire down the mountain and into the town of Gatlinburg, with little warning. In addition to the 2400 damaged or destroyed structures, 14 people lost their lives. Two juveniles are currently being held in Juvenile Detention, accused of aggravated arson.


16 comments:

  1. Linda, I'm so glad your posted this because it's a story that should be told over and over again in hopes it may help prevent such a tradgedy happening ever again. Seeing the photo of the Park Vista Hotel reminded me of the film I saw on a Facebook page that someone inside the hotel had posted just as the flames were closing in on it - with the people still inside. I was completely stunned and could do nothing but ask the Lord to be with them. You can just imagine how they felt, and I know prayers went up by the thousands as we waited hoping for reports of possible rescue. I believe God intervened for them as they left in a bus soon after the video aired. What a nightmare, but what a God we serve!

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    1. Toni, we followed the stories of the fire on the internet, and I saw one woman interviewed who had been trapped in the lobby of the Park Vista Hotel. It must have been horrifying. She told of how they all lay on the floor of the lobby. She pinned notes on her two nephews, hoping it would help to identify their bodies since she was sure they were going to die. I don't know how a bus was able to get to them. As you said, God intervened and provided a way of escape.

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  2. So sad how much damage forest fires can do. Thank you so much for sharing, Linda.

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    1. Linda, it's especially sad when such fires are caused by humans, whether by negligence or by intent.

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  3. Sad to see all the damage, it takes a long time to repair. I have always liked the area

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    1. It's a beautiful area, Steve. The burned area of the park covered about 11,000 acres. That's a lot, to be sure; but it's a relatively small portion of the total acreage in the park. The damage to buildings and lives in and around Gatlinburg, on the other hand, is horrendous.

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  4. That is so sad to see. What bothers me even more is that it may have been deliberately started.

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    1. It is sad, Ruth. And it appears that it was deliberately started.

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  5. I'm glad you were able to get down here. Everyone has worked hard to recover from the fires, but it's going to be a long process.

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    1. George, we could easily see that the process is going to be a long one. For some, of course, life has changed forever. The National Park is still beautiful, though, even with its charred areas.

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  6. Glad you all made it... All of us who love that area NEED to see that --as sad as it is... My ex-mother-in-law had a cabin up there which we enjoyed when our kids were young... That cabin is totally gone now ---and as hard as it was to see it, I'm glad we did.... Lots of memories...

    They've made a lot of progress to some areas/cabins/homes --but the people who had no money are still struggling starting over... Very sad... I'm sure that places like the castle will come back bigger and better... BUT--it's the little people/homes/businesses/cabins that we need to REMEMBER....

    I'm not sure there could have ever been anyway to prevent this from happening... It just turned out to be the Perfect Storm... The best way that can help is not to allow so much building --especially so close together.... BUT--that won't be easy...

    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Betsy, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of a cabin that held so many memories for you and your family. As for the Castle, I read that the original cost to build it was estimated to be in excess of 12 million dollars. And that was 50 years ago. I can't begin to imagine what it would cost today to replace it. Sadly, this particular fire didn't have to happen.

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  7. Linda, thank you so much for sharing these pictures. We hear about these things on the news and even see pictures on the television, but seeing your photos along with your explanation of each of them really brings the reality of the devastation home. We have friends who have a cabin there in the area. The fire stopped just five miles from them. Thank you again for sharing these photos.

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    1. Dianna, I'm so glad your friends' cabin was spared. It's amazing, too, that none of the structures inside the park were destroyed, although some did suffer damage.

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  8. So sad testimony. They say that fire is healing for nature in long term development but when people are involved, it's something quite different.

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    1. True, Petra. Naturally caused wildfires can create similar devastation; but it seems somehow worse when the devastation was caused by humans, whether accidentally or malevolently.

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