GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – It was a firestorm that forever changed the Smoky Mountains and the city of Gatlinburg. New dashcam video from the Sevierville Police Department gives an up close perspective of what first responders saw the night of the wildfires.
The video offers new insight into what first repsonders were up against the night the fire spread into town and the quick decisions they made in bringing people to safety. The video also raises questions about the overall response from the city.
Sevierville police arrived in town around 10 p.m. the night of November 28, driving into the fire zone as hundreds of families fled to safety in the opposite direction.
“I can’t believe this. The whole town is on fire. It’s a ghost town,” said one officer in the recording.
Emergency crews driving through flying sparks and embers, blinded by counts of smoke quickly turned to rescue mode.
“This is the police! Mandatory evacuation. Please leave the property!”
Crews continued to drive through the inferno, looking for anyone left behind, and after hours of searching, reality started sinking in.
“They haven’t found them yet but there are people who have died in this,” said an officer.
More than 14,000 people fled Gatlinburg the night of the fires, many sitting in miles long traffic jams. The wildfires left 14 people dead and caused more than a billion dollars in damage. Much of Gatlinburg is still intact and the community is on a road of rebuilding and recovery.