Devestation in Gatlinburg & The Great Smoky Mountains : Wildfires 2016 Part 1

9:58 PM

Gatlingburg & The Great Smoky Mountain Wildfires 2016 : Part 1

  No matter where you walked, the Ash was falling. It became increasing necessary to wear mask to walk outside. You could see the smoke from Chimney Tops II, the winds were getting increasingly faster, picking up speed , hot spots and small fires were beginning to pop up all over. Evacuation should have already happened, when it finally did come, it was far too late for way too many.

Was it a failed Emergency Alert system, or was it simply a disaster that no one expected to get that big, that fast? Regardless, the devastation left behind, the body count that grows each day, the homes and businesses lost....could anything have saved them? In hindsight, I am sure officials would have evacuated hours earlier had they have known what was truly in store. I think that residents should have probably sensed what was coming when the smoke got to be so thick , they should have left on their own. It is now what it is, and now, we tell the story, and we recover.

Here is a video that will require tissues. I was given express permission by it's owner to use this and this may not be used by anyone else without permission. You are welcome to share my post to share the video. 

Video I made as a tribute to the many men and women that worked tirelessly in the efforts of saving the beautiful mountains we call home. #PrayForGatlinburg
Posted by Heather Burris on Thursday, 1 December 2016

    We all have fond memories of the Smoky Mountains. If, like me, you live in the area, you never take those mountains for granted. You wake up each morning, look outside and see those beautiful Mountains in the distance and think, wow, what a wonderful thing to wake up to each day.

The day I looked out and saw smoke, and more smoke. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. I wasn't necessarily thinking about the Mountains, but it was just a feeling of doom all day.

As the day went on Monday, we all watched the news, hearing fire updates that although sounded ominous, they never sounded horribly urgent until the day got later and the smoke got thick, the fire started burning hard and fast, jumping the fire breaks, the winds carrying the embers starting new fires, the town slowly emptying, then the evacuations began.  Long before everyone could be evacuated, homes were burning, people were tripping over each other trying to get off the Mountain, picking up strangers along the roads who were running for safety after vehicles had burned.

    " The flames are across the street, what should we do?" This is the last words Michael Reed heard his wife speak. He told her to call 911 and get her and their 2 daughters Lilly and Chloe out of the house as fast as possible. He and his son were on their way already but were stuck in traffic. By the time he reached his home hours later, it was home, burned to the ground, but a lone teddy bear la in the road, so eh was sure his wife and daughters had made it to safety.

  Confusion, Chaos, Shelter after shelter, no one had seen his family. All night and all the next day, he searched, friends and family went to shelter after shelter, they even snuck back in to Gatlinburg after being told not too, he was desperate to find his family, yet still nothing. His story captured the heart of millions all over the world who prayed for his wife and daughters to be found safe, but that was not to be. Several days later, they were found in a cabin a couple of miles from their home, deceased.

   Michael grieved, his son grieved, family and friends grieved and with them, millions around the world grieved as well. They felt the pain for him, for me personally, an outsider looking in, who had followed and prayed right along with everyone else in our little part of East Tennessee..I cried. I cried, and I cried some more. Even though I knew had they have been safe, they would have been found by now, it did not make it any less sad to knwo that two precious children died, but they died with their mother doing everything she could to save them. They died with their mother beside them.

This isn't the only story like this one. We have grandmothers, parents, a Reverend and more who have perished in the largest fire in over 100 years of Tennessee History.

So , that takes us back to what could have been done to prevent this. Could this have been prevented , the deaths, with a better alert system? Would an earlier evacuation have made a difference? I am sure that would have, but hindsight is 20/20. Did they have any idea that those winds would cause the fires to burn this fast ? When did they know and when were they told? I have heard so many stories on the when, the how, the why, so here, in this series, you are not only going to get a first hand look at the devastation, hear stories from those who were on the front lines, stories from those who lost homes, loved ones, jobs, and even pets.

Firefighters rushed from call to call, one firefighter even drove past his own home as it was up in flames, and could not stop and save it because he was rushing to another call to save a life. Peter Thompson who is a Firefighter and Paramedic had his Wife & 2 daughters had evacuated earlier in the day but this Firefighter and his family lost everything except 3 small Precious Moments figurines of their daughters. What is even more sad, his parents also lost their home and everything in it, leaving this extended large family now with no where to go and nothing left. They say they will rebuild, they will continue to stay and call Gatlinburg their home again one day, but can you imagine how this man felt watching his house up in flames while on the to another call?

I am sure by now many of you are hearing crazy stories, right? Like the fact that there are many more dead bodies but that because they have not been identified they are not releasing them in the true body count.  One such story was that the First Responders watched a baby burn and I can assure you that that is NOT true, no First Responder or even regular citizen, would have stood by and watched a baby or child burn. I am sure the body count will rise, and as I get factual information it will be included in this series. I want to bring you stories that are factual, stories that show you the true devastation here in East Tennessee.

Please, please do not send your donations ot the Red Cross, there are many other ways for you to donate where 100 % will go to these victims. The Red Cross so far has not helped anyone with housing, food or anything other than what was donated, even though they have raised more money than you can imagine, they say their is no money raised to help with housing for these people. They are not helping with hotel rooms, they simply are refusing any donations of anything other than money even though Gatlinburg and Sevierville are begging for more donations. Donate through Dolly's fund, or direct to Gatlinburg or the National Park Service.

I have 19 families with children who currently lost everything or their families lost their jobs due to their place of business being burned down and not reopening for month ( We also confirmed that these businesses will not be paying the employees or employing them else-ware, we wanted to make sure the need was true and real) and need adopted for Christmas that I will be delivering on Dec 22nd. If you would like to adopt one of those families, I can give you my address to send the items too  and I can give you all of their details. I hate to say this, but I am focusing more on the true Mountain folks, not the ones who had second homes or vacation homes or who lives in million dollar houses, bu the ones who went to work everyday, who were poor mountain people or middle class like the rest of us. I want to help those families. If you would like to adopt a family for Christmas by making a monetary donation ( see above if you would like to purchase items yourself) , I can provide you with a receipt of what is purchased, the family it is purchased for and pictures once we drop the items off to the families. The families also are aware of our help for Christmas and are counting on us. We are the only ones helping these 19 families for Christmas. We have also let other agencies know that we have these 19 families we are collecting for so that they are not added to any other list unless we cannot provide for them.

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