Vinnie Vineyard, owner of Uptown Cabs in Sevier County, hears the stories of healing and recovery through his passengers.

"Months ago, all people could talk about was how terrible the fires were," he said. "Now, life has gone on. People are talking about football, what movies they watch..what things inspire them."

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Driving through Gatlinburg, Vineyard appreciates the place he calls home.

"I'm still blown away by the beauty. This is paradise man. This is like a Hawaiian vacation to me," he said.

In November 2016, Vineyard heard about the quickly spreading wildfires and made a decision to use his cab to offer free rides to escapees through the night.

"I was in bathrobe, not much else, eating a piece of pizza and sat there and thought for a second and realized I have got to go help as many people as I can," he said. "Police officers will tell you, cab drivers and pizza guys know the ins and outs of a city better than anyone but the officers themselves."

Vineyard risked his life, taking on damage to his cab. Debris chipped his front window and shattered his rear-view mirror. He says the damage is incomparable to the lives he saved.

"It's humbling knowing I was able to help people," Vineyard said. "There are properties people miss and there are human beings we lost that are absolutely missed and time will never heal those wounds, but as an overall vibe, this city has bounced back beautifully."

Vineyard says business has been tough in the past year, but recently he and other business owners he knows are having more success.

"What gives me hope is as a community. We're still rocking and rolling. We're still smoky strong," he said.