Louisville families forced out of Gatlinburg as wildfires hit

Louisville families forced out of Gatlinburg as wildfires hit

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Louisville couple is counting their blessings after being in the middle of the wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN. 
Casey and Rachel Hamm were looking forward to their vacation at the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort. They are regulars to the area. They got to the resort on Sunday, and by Monday evening they were being evacuated as hundreds of structures were damaged and destroyed by spreading wildfires.   
Rachel Hamm said the fire was spreading quickly.

"I turned around behind me and basically we were on one mountain and the next mountain over was just completely lit up orange and covered in smoke," said Rachel Hamm. "The whole smoke cloud was bright orange. I looked at Casey and was like 'how did this happen?  How is the fire this close."

Once they were told they had to leave the resort, the Louisville couple got in their car and tried to leave the resort as safely as they could. They were sandwiched in between cars with flames surrounding them. They said it was like a scene from a movie.

"If anyone has seen Dante's Peak, that is what it felt like," Casey Hamm said.

The Hamms drove to a friend's home in Maryville, TN.

They are grateful to be alive and said they prayed the entire time to make it out safely.

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Another Louisville couple is also devastated by the wildfire. Les and Linda Demaree have spent a lot of time at their chalet in Gatlinburg over the past 11 years.

"If you ever got things on your mind, you can go down there and they disappear," Linda Demaree said. "It's a very peaceful place. I say it's the closest thing to God."

The Demarees left Gatlinburg on Monday night after spending Thanksgiving there, knowing things weren't looking good. The couple got the terrible news at 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning that their chalet was likely destroyed in the wildfire.

"We've had several friends call us and say the whole mountain is gone," Linda said.

Despite the destruction, both couples plan to make it back to Gatlinburg.

"We will always go back," said Linda Demaree. "Because, as I tell him all the time 'Les, the mountains are calling, we gotta go."

As for Casey and Rachel Hamm, they said they were touched by every single first responder that put their lives on the line to save them and everyone else.

To help victims of Tennessee Wildfires you can donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by clicking here.

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