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Worst of Gatlinburg Inferno May be Over, but the Damage Is Done


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Raging wildfires fueled by drought and hurricane-force winds sent thousands of people fleeing for their lives in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Monday night.

The fires have killed at least three people and sent over a dozen others to the hospital with burns or smoke inhalation.

The flames even threatened Dollywood, one of the area's largest tourist attractions. The park, however, appears to have survived.

But surveys of early damage reveal the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, with more than 100 buildings, is likely entirely gone.

Local officials offered reassurance that the worst was over Tuesday, with rain in the forecast through Wednesday, but say they haven't seen a fire this intense in years.

"We had wind gusts in excess of 87 miles an hour. That is hurricane force. That is nowhere to be when trying to fight a fire," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said.

The fire has destroyed at least 150 buildings, including entire churches.

"There was fire everywhere. It was like we were in hell," said Linda Monholland, who was working at Park View Inn in Gatlinburg when she and five other people fled on foot. "Walking through hell, that's what it was. I can't believe it. I never want to see something like that again in my life, ever."

Meanwhile, other churches in the area are mobilizing and working with the Red Cross and other local ministries to determine how to best serve evacuees and rescue workers.

"We're trying to be supportive of them; we're trying to reach out to them, show the love of Christ," Dick Wellons, of Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, told CBN News.

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