Even for those who had braced for the worst, Gatlinburg is unrecognizable – the mountain town ravaged by wildfire, many of its homes reduced to husks. When residents and business owners returned to their properties on a full-time basis this morning, this is what lay before them:
The fire had eaten away many of their homes. Only the bricks remained intact – and that too, only in places.
The cars parked outside have suffered the same fate – their colors turned gray, their tires burned away.
Even though the blaze is mostly contained, hotspots persist. And smoke chokes the air.
All told, the fires gnawed away more than 17,000 acres and 2,460 structures, scorching homes, cabins and churches and killing 14 people along a fiery path. The recovery will be long – and painful.