Massive Pigeon Forge cabin fire remembered one year later

Massive Pigeon Forge cabin fire remembered one year later

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The flames broke out at the Black Bear Ridge Resort just off Wears Valley Road. A total of more than 60 cabins and 200 acres burned, and there's still no official cause. (source: Smoky Mountain Helicopter) The flames broke out at the Black Bear Ridge Resort just off Wears Valley Road. A total of more than 60 cabins and 200 acres burned, and there's still no official cause. (source: Smoky Mountain Helicopter)

By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - One year ago Monday, dozens of cabins burned to the ground in Pigeon Forge. The massive, fast-moving fire charred hundreds of acres of mountain side on March 17, 2013.

The flames broke out at the Black Bear Ridge Resort just off Wears Valley Road. A total of more than 60 cabins and 200 acres burned, and there's still no official cause.

It took crews nearly two days to get the fire under control. Developers say the disaster cost them millions of dollars.

A scorched fire hydrant was a picture worth a thousand words for visitors whose vacation was cut short last year.

"I think maybe 10 of us went to the Bristol race. On the way back, we found out that the cabin was on fire. When we got here, they were all on fire," said Ken Lea whose cabin was destroyed.

Firefighters like Lt. Ricky Ray with the Sevierville Fire Department say the flames that day were truly unforgettable.

"It's probably the fastest moving fire any of us had ever seen. It started with four cabins, then jumped to 20 cabins in a matter of 20 minutes," he said.

One memory is still clear this day. "The logs were actually burning and breaking apart and rolling down the mountain, catching other cabins on fire," added Lt. Ray.

Homes scattering the hillside were threatened. Michelle Johnson says it's hard to believe the fire came so close.

"We were evacuated, I was gone for three days and I didn't know if my home would be here when I came back or not," she said.

Thankfully, the flames stopped at the bottom of Johnson's hill.

"So over the past year I've had time to reflect. I've had copies made of my pictures and DVDs because those things are irreplaceable," she added.

She's somewhat happy to have learned that lesson.

"Throughout this whole entire year, every time I see a firefighter, I thank them," said Johnson.

Firefighters say over the last year they've been talking to homeowners' associations about guidelines to make sure a fire like this one never happens again.

Black Bear Ridge Resort officials say two cabins are currently under construction. Owners of five more are also planning to rebuild.

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