02:16 - Source: CNN
Fire victims return to unexpected sight
CNN —  

The Smoky Mountains resort town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, had a message Friday for the world: We are open – and back in business.

“I’m really anxious to get back to work and get things back to normal as much as they can be,” Terrina Worley, a Space Needle employee, on Thursday told CNN affiliate WVLT in Knoxville.

The area was hit hard by wildfires that killed 14 people, injured 175 and destroyed some 2,500 buildings.

Cars and pedestrians returned to Gatlinburg on Friday as the city works to recover from wildfires.

Residents on Wednesday were allowed to come home permanently to find much of the area in burned out ruins.

But the city core was left largely intact. That includes Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Distillery, the convention center – and the Space Needle, which is anticipating New Year’s Eve, usually its biggest day of the year.

“We’ve heard a lot of rumors that people think we’re burned down,” said Matt Hensley, general manager of the Space Needle. “We just want everybody to know downtown is still good.”