SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Wears Valley resident Anthony De Tullio didn’t take chances Wednesday night. As the wildfire outside his home continued to burn, he began making plans.
Tullio grabbed what he felt was most valuable to him, and soon he and his wife left their home.
“Trying to play cautious, I went down to my garage and packed my car with valuables and paper documents and many photo albums,” Tullio said. “I have a lot of albums and that’s one thing I’ve always felt, you can never replace pictures of loved ones, and some of the albums are from my parents and my wife’s parents and go back almost 100 years.”
Tullio and his wife left not too long after they were told to evacuate. They ended up at the Pigeon Forge Community Center. However, Tullio said they ended up staying the night in a nearby motel.
“Right now we’re hopeful that our home will still be there,” Tullio said. “I really feel bad for the people who have lost their homes. Again, going back to the Gatlinburg fires, it’s devastating. Everything you’ve had you’ve lost, it’s heartbreaking, so we’re just hopeful that we’ll be OK.”
Karensa Smith is visiting Sevier County from Michigan. She said her family weren’t aware of what was happening until they began seeing numerous fire trucks.
“There were at least, I don’t know, fifteen or twenty of them and lots of cars coming down,” she said.
Smith was enjoying spring break with her 10-year-old daughter. The rest and relaxation they were expecting during their Tennessee vacation came to and end quicker than anticipated. Smith said she’s glad they were able to make it out safely during a tense situation.
“When I called our cabin rental and they said, ‘Oh you need to evacuate now,'” Smith said. “I was a little panicked. Plus we didn’t have any power. So imagine no power, panicking, thoughts of wildfires around. It was nerve wrecking, but once we got here I felt a little more calm.”
Through the chaos, others found a way to take their mind off of the issue at hand by stepping in to help. A group of college students from Delaware put their spring break aside to help at the Pigeon Forge Community Center.
“It was a good experience. We helped out,” one of the students stated. “Last night we helped set up the cots and everything.”
Hundreds of visitors and residents are expected to be at the evacuation shelters for another night as they wait for the all-clear to return home.