Brothers recount harrowing escape from Sevier Co. fires
On the night of Nov. 28, Michael Luciano and his stepbrother Anthony Fulton made a harrowing escape out of Chalet Village on Wiley Oakley Drive as a fire that started in Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread into Gatlinburg.
Luciano made a cell phone video of the drive down the mountain with smoke, embers and flames all around their truck.
WBIR 10News spoke to Luciano and Fulton shortly after their escape that night. The two wondered if they had a home still standing on top of the mountain.
"The not knowing is almost as bad as going down the mountain in the fire,' Luciano said.
In the days following the fire, Luciano and Fulton drove the same route back up Wiley Oakley Drive. This time, the view had changed with burned trees and flattened foundations from where houses once stood.
"It was just pure devastation," he said. "It looked like a bomb had went off. All of the cabins gone."
Houses burned all around their chalet, but to their amazement, their home was still intact.
"It just picked and choosed," Fulton said. "One cabin is standing and all around is gone."
Luciano doesn't like to say he's lucky, instead; he says he's grateful.
"I think we were just very fortunate to even get off the mountain, much less have a place to come back to," he said.
The two moved back into their home last week, and they are getting used to a new normal with less houses dotting the road up the mountain.
Luciano said he can't explain why or how he or his home survived, but now he wants to work to make sure that Gatlinburg is protected in the future with planned evacuation routes and an effective warning system.
"Those changes, if I have to be the one to voice them," he said, "maybe that's the reason we made it down."