Gatlinburg wildfire claims Mooresville family's vacation home - | WBTV Charlotte

Gatlinburg wildfire claims Mooresville family's vacation home

(Courtesy: Betsy Harris) (Courtesy: Betsy Harris)
(Courtesy: Betsy Harris) (Courtesy: Betsy Harris)

Betsy and Mike Harris said they decided to buy a vacation home in Gatlinburg three years ago because their three children all attended college in Tennessee. The getaway chalet in the Tennessee mountains gave the Mooresville family a chance to spend weekends together.

The chalet is gone, lost to a raging wildfire that Betsy Harris described as "surreal moments" when she, her husband and one of her daughters tried to get out of town. 

"It was the most chaotic, scary night of our lives," she said. 'We could see fire on the mountains coming out of Gatlinburg to Newport on the left. The sky was just bright red and then the other concerns were both the winds. The trees were swaying to and fro and of course with that came the down power lines."

"It’s just one of those surreal moments I think you’re sort of in shock and at the same time you’re just so very focused on getting out that you just put all of that fear aside and do what you have to do," Harris said.

Monday started with typical holiday stuff at their getaway chalet on Big Ridge Mountain. They cleaned and got ready for Christmas, then left their dog, Chapman, at home and headed out for errands in Pigeon Forge.

"About 10:30 yesterday morning, a lot of smoke in the area but cleared in the afternoon," she recalled.

She said hours later as they headed back to Gatlinburg, there was a change. Police had roads blocked. Traffic was slow.

"About that time I looked to the left and saw the mountain was on fire," she said but they eventually made it to their road. And we rounded the corner, we noticed the entire mountain in front of us was on fire."

Two other homes next to theirs were already on fire. She said a firefighter stopped them, said it was too dangerous for them to go home. 

"That's when my husband jumped out and said our dog is still in our chalet and we have to get our dog," Harris said.

But they couldn't. Harris said they turned around, and as they drove down the mountain, the phone rang.

"It was a firefighter whose name was Ian who told us he had rescued our dog and he said 'I'm sorry, I broke your door down'."

Their dog was fine. They had to get out of town. She said they made it to a hotel half hour away from Gatlinburg - that was at 2 a.m. Tuesday. Hours later, they got the news.

"We found out through our Homeowners Association that our house along with 30 others were completely gone," Harris said. "My husband had his Bible and we just want to go back because we heard so many stories about people who have lost everything yet the Bible remains. This was one of this favorite study Bibles so we’re hopeful to come back on Saturday to see maybe it’s still there."

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