Rebuilding From Disaster: Gatlinburg Wildfire

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 4:25 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2021 at 4:29 PM EST
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(WHSV) - November 28th, 2016 is a day many in east Tennessee will never forget. A popular tourist destination was engulfed by flames.

The fire started on November 23rd in the Great Smoky Mountains. Five days later, incredibly fierce winds, nearly 90 mph, fueled the fire and caused it to go out of control, eventually spreading towards Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

14,000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuate. Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed and 14 people lost their life.

One church was able to be quickly rebuilt in about two years. “It blows our imagination to be blessed by God with the things that we have,” said Casey Miles, youth pastor of Roaring Fork Baptist Church.

Many wondered how this could have happened so researchers got to work. They created simulations of wildfires to get a better understanding so the town is more prepared if this were to happen again. “We’re looking at how we make buildings more resistant to that wildfire ember onslaught so we can prevent many of them from burning,” said Anne Cope, chief engineer of the Insurance Institute for Business.

Plenty of jobs opened up to rebuild structures and the rebuilding process continues still 5 years later.

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