One year anniversary of Gatlinburg wildfires brings chilling memories of deadly blaze

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WZTV) — Travelers making their way to the Smoky Mountains for this holiday season will now be greeted by warm glowing lights and festive signs.

But just one year ago on Tuesday, the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevier County areas were ravaged by wildfires that claimed the lives of 14 people, destroyed more than 1,780 structures and caused up to $2 billion of damage in the height of the tourist season. They were the deadliest wildfires in the history of Tennessee.

Smoky Mountains on Fire
The fire started in the Great Smoky Mountains and, according to attorneys, spread to residential and commercial areas due to dry weather and unusually high winds

Lives lost in the wildfires include a mother and her two daughters, the parents of triplets from Memphis, an elderly couple and others.

The devastation rippled throughout the country as many people took to social media to share their fond memories in the mountains.

The wildfires also stole an iconic venue from the city at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains whose nickname is “the wedding capital of the South.” Cupid’s Chapel of Love hosted 20,000 weddings before being reduced to rubble in the wildfires.

The Recovery
Country superstar Dolly Parton was joined by celebrity friends for a telethon which raised more than $9 million for victims.

Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas continue to recover from the wildfires.

Holiday lights adorn the main drag of Gatlinburg, leaving it looking almost untouched. But just two blocks away, there’s a chilling reminder of what happened in this town a year ago on Nov. 28.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com