Gatlinburg homeowners describe narrowly avoiding fires

GATLINBURG, TN (WJHL) – The smoke in the air was still lingering Tuesday night, and so were feelings of devastation and loss.

Some people were left without homes, while others were wondering if their homes are still intact.

But those people say they’re thankful for their lives.

“It was like a warzone,” said resident Melissa Keith.

Keith didn’t want to leave her Gatlinburg home Monday night, but said she now wishes she left earlier because she had to drive through the blaze.

“I had cinders coming at my window, the roads were on fire, all of the hillsides were on fire,” Keith said.

She knew it was time to flee, she said, when the house behind hers burst into flames.

“The house just caught on fire and it was gone within two seconds,” said Keith.

It’s a similar story of survival for husband and wife Dianna and Chris Herrmann.

“We had probably 15 minutes to get to the bottom of that hill before the whole mountain was on fire,” they said.

The Herrmanns said if they would have hesitated for just minutes, they wouldn’t be alive, but Tuesday, they’re joining hundreds of people taking shelter at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School.

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” they said.

Both the Herrmanns and Melissa Keith are safe, but confused, wondering if their homes are still intact.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dianna Herrmann said.

“I just pray that I still have a place to go back to,” said Keith.

While people like the Herrmanns and Melissa Keith were still wondering about the status of their homes, some people said theirs have completely burned to the ground.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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