GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – New dash cam video from the Sevierville Police Department gives an up-close perspective of what first responders saw the night of the Sevier County wildfires.
The video offers new insight into what authorities were up against the night the flames spread into town and the quick decisions they made in bringing people to safety.
The video also raises questions about the overall response from the city.
Sevierville police arrived in town around 10 p.m. the night of Nov. 28, driving into the fire zone as hundreds of families fled to safety in the opposite direction.
“I can’t believe this. The whole town is on fire. It’s a ghost town,” said one officer in the recording.
Emergency crews drove through flying sparks and embers and were blinded by smoke, sending them into rescue mode.
“This is the police! Mandatory evacuation. Please leave the property!” an officer can be heard saying.
Crews continued to drive through the inferno, looking for anyone left behind, and after hours of searching, reality started sinking in.
“They haven’t found them yet, but there are people who have died in this,” said an officer.
More than 14,000 people fled Gatlinburg that fateful, many sitting in miles-long traffic jams. The wildfires left 14 people dead and caused more than a billion dollars in damage.
Much of Gatlinburg is still intact, and the community is on a road of rebuilding and recovery.