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2017 marks a year of wildfire recovery in Gatlinburg

In the mountain tough town of Gatlinburg, life shadows burn scars.

In Gatlinburg, 2017 will be marked by strength, resiliency and healing after the wildfires. It's a year the community is thankful to put behind them.

In the mountain tough town of Gatlinburg, life shadows burn scars.

"Material things just don't mean that much. It's the people who matter,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner. “Time heals but my gosh, it's still just hard to believe it happened when you look back.”

In just hours, fire destroyed or damaged more than 2,400 structures and killed 14 people.

Michael Reed lost his wife, Constance, and 2 daughters.

"It's very important to him that he helps as many as he can in memory of his wife and girls,” said Grant Reed, Michael's father.

Michael has spent the last year finding purpose in his pain. In memory of his wife, who said she was abused growing up, Michael started the Reed Foundation to raise awareness and prevent sexual abuse.

"He's already helped a lot of people,” Reed said about his son.

There's no shortage of help in this town.

“This is home. Charity begins at home, right,” Dolly Parton said as she handed out checks to families devastated by the wildfires.

More than 900 families received $12.5 million through Dolly's “My People Fund".

"When I was just about to give up, good people seemed to swarm out of the woodworks everywhere,” said Ernest Ogle who's called Gatlinburg home for decades.

Thanks to the Appalachian Service Project, Ernest Ogle has a new house in the very spot he's lived for 40 years. Volunteers have completed half a dozen homes so far.

"Every time I see a new house coming up it makes me feel good,” Werner said.

Even the world famous pig that burrowed deep for survival during the wildfires will soon have new digs thanks to proceeds from his very own book.

“They said a human nor animal couldn't survive that and here's Charles,” Rob Holmes, Charles' owner, said.

Up and down the parkway businesses are back from the ashes. Alamo Steakhouse reopened in October.

"It's been nice to see all the customers we see every year,” Kelly Johnson, with Alamo Steakhouse, said.

The Gatlinburg Sky lift is once again taking guests back up the mountain.

And Westgate Resort which lost 652 out of more than a thousand units reopened just weeks after the fire, building back better.

“Every one of our owners will come back to a nicer unit than they ever had before,” Westgate Resorts COO Mark Waltrip said.

2017 also welcomed several new attractions including Anakeesta and Margaritaville Resort of the Smokies. According to the Chamber, it's one of 5 new hotels.

"Tourism is the backbone of Gatlinburg,” said Alex Davis co-owner and developer of Margaritaville Resort.

"Gatlinburg is very vibrant,” added Mayor Werner. “It's very alive."

While you never forget, you move forward, always remembering what it means to be Smokies Strong.

"We're forever tied together because of that night we had,” Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson said.

"What we've got to do is be positive, look to the future and know that God has a plan in this," added Buddy McLean, Buckberry Lodge owner.

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