For the first time on Wednesday, some Gatlinburg residents were able to get back and find what was left of their homes, after Monday's wildfires raged out of control.
More than 75 homes were destroyed in the Cobbly Nob village, which is located 10 miles east of downtown Gatlinburg.
"I was really worried about my dog"
Mike Manns was one of those residents that had minutes to evacuate.
"I could see the fire glow up on the mountain," Manns said. "You can't put it in words. I mean it's unbelievable, unbelievable."
He weathered the storm at his brother's house, but Manns suffers from heart disease and was without his medication.
On top of that, he was without something else he values just as much.
"I was not worried about my possessions," he paused. "But I was really worried about my dog."
Minnie has been by his side for years, and he had to leave her behind.
For 24 hours, he lived with the uncertainty of whether Minnie or his home had survived.
"I was really worried about her safety. I didn't want her to die in the fire," he said.
He considers himself fortunate. His home only sustained minor damage to his window, and Minnie was okay.
So many people put themselves in danger
Giulia Luzzana's world caught fire while she was out of town. The new U.S. citizen, who was born in Italy, was celebrating Thanksgiving with her husband's family out of town.
"A friend of mine called and said there’s fires in Gatlinburg,” she said.
She watched reports of homes turned to ashes, then got a text showing the office where she works in Gatlinburg, and her car parked outside, burned to a crisp.
“Reality started to sink in that that was what my home was going to look like. I’d seen pictures online of the house just up the street from us engulfed in flames,” she said.
Downed power lines and thick smoke kept Giulia away, but on a rain-soaked Wednesday, she finally made it, and so had her house.
“To come here to find I still had a house is surreal. I woke up this morning thinking that I had nothing left that I literally had to start from scratch,” she said.
There’s still no power in the neighborhood, so Giulia, her husband, and her pets will be staying with a friend.
“So I’m just getting enough clothes for another couple of days. The important documents”
While it may seem like a miracle her home is still standing, there are plenty of clues their good-fortune is the result of someone’s sacrifice.
“That mask that obviously a firefighter left here. Putting their lives in danger, for me. That is a debt I’ll never be able to repay,” she said. “And there’s my husband, cleaning up the neighborhood. Trying to help where he can.”
A Thanksgiving holiday that ends so thankful they will not have to rebuild their house when there’s been so much damage to the region she calls home.
“You’ve got people who are ready to give you the shirts off your backs. This is when the true colors of your community shows is when things like this happen,” she said.
(© 2017 WBIR)