'A very heart-wrenching three months': Gatlinburg families continue to recover

Feb. 28, 2017: Three months after wildfires swept through Sevier County, families are continuing on the road to recovery.

SEVIER COUNTY - At first, the threat seemed small on Nov. 28, 2016.

The LaBorde family planned to stay in their Mynatt Park home, but as embers jumped across the mountainside, a once voluntary evacuation became a rush to safety.

"A police man came knocking on our door and told us to get out,” explained Tristan LaBorde. "You couldn't really see anything because of the smoke.”

The family piled in the car along with their dog, Hansel, leaving behind a house full of memories.

"The winds had picked up tremendously and it was getting really scary outside,” said Shirley LaBorde. "You think of all the things you want and you don't have time to gather as quickly as you like.”

They first stopped at a nearby hotel, just to get away from the smoke that was causing difficulty breathing, but they were soon pushed to evacuate even further outside the city.

“By the time we left, the smoke was so horrendous and we could barely see outside the car,” said Huey LaBorde.

For more than a week, they were left wondering what they would find when they returned. A family friend was able to drive through their neighborhood and confirmed their home was still there.

“When we drove up and saw the house was fine, you just rejoice, but then you see your neighbor’s house burned to the ground,” said Huey.

Discovering their home had survived still brought mixed emotions when just beyond their porch, neighbors fared differently.

The fire barely touched their property, taking out a section of their fence.

“I think there was about 150 feet worth of fence we lost, but me and my grandfather spent a couple of weeks rebuilding it,” explained Tristan.  

Spring is on the way, but the pain of that dark, ash-filled night still lingers.

"It’s just been a very heart-wrenching three months, trying to cope with what so many people have been through, and just realizing things can happen so fast that it can be gone before you know it,” said Shirley.

While it’s difficult to grasp, the family is finding healing through the recovery process and music.

“It’s always so nice to see resilience of people who have been damaged and hurt, and see them recover, it’s a good thing,” said Huey.

The Labordes are members of Roaring Fork Baptist Church, which was consumed by the wildfires.

They are excited their church is going to rebuild.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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