Gatlinburg fires: 11 dead; families wait for news of missing

Updated 12:02 AM EST, Fri December 2, 2016
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Story highlights

NEW: Officials say 11 people were killed

Man searching for missing wife and daughters: "We're just hoping for a miracle"

(CNN) —  

Alice Hagler’s family hoped she’d made it out of her Gatlinburg cabin – that maybe a neighbor had rescued her after she’d called her son to tell him that the fire roaring into the area had started burning her home.

It wasn’t to be. The family was heartbroken Wednesday evening when, they say, officials told them the 70-year-old Hagler had been found dead – one of at least 11 people killed in a wildfire that spread from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into the eastern Tennessee resort city this week.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters on Thursday afternoon reported the three most recent fatalities.

Firefighters and other responders are extending their search into previously inaccessible burned areas as several families wait for news about relatives they say have been missing since the fire blew into inhabited areas Monday.

One of Hagler’s sons, Lyle Wood, says the family is mourning her and trying to figure out the next steps for his brother, who lived with Hagler but wasn’t home when the fire came.

“The last phone call she made to my brother was the fact that she was really scared and frantic because the house was actually on fire at that point,” Wood told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday. “Our hope was that maybe she’d be one of the ones that was found safe.

“It’s a hard thing … She was an amazing woman who loved a lot.”

Rescue chances dimming

The blazes scorched thousands of acres in the resort-heavy area, burning more than 700 buildings in Sevier County, including about 300 in Gatlinburg alone, and injuring at least 74 people, officials said.

Volunteers flock to Volunteer State to help fire victims